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Chicago’s Shedd Aquarium recently announced that it had welcomed a five-week old orphaned Southern Sea Otter pup from the United States Fish and Wildlife Service (USFWS).

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Shedd_Sea Otter Pup_4Photo Credits: Shedd Aquarium / Brenna Hernandez

The female pup arrived at Shedd on October 28th from Monterey Bay Aquarium in California, where she spent the first four weeks of her life being stabilized. The pup has been doing well since her arrival, receiving continual care behind the scenes of Shedd’s Abbott Oceanarium, and she currently weighs in at just under 6 pounds and 22.6 inches long. She is the second pup from the threatened Southern Sea Otter population to reside at Shedd. Currently referred to as “Pup 681,” Shedd’s animal care and veterinarian teams are providing the continual, round-the-clock care she needs to thrive.

The small, vulnerable pup was found on September 30th on Coastways Beach in California, and, at that time, was estimated to be only one week old and weighing around 2 pounds. A citizen on an evening walk heard the newborn otter’s cry and quickly notified The Marine Mammal Center (TMMC). TMMC staff contacted Monterey Bay Aquarium’s Sea Otters Program, and scientists determined the pup could not be safely retrieved that evening due to the remote location and impending darkness. The following morning, the pup was still in the same location and determined to have been orphaned, and it was estimated she had been separated from her mother for at least 16 hours. Scientists from the California Department of Fish and Wildlife (CDFW) and the Sea Otter Program responded immediately to recover the pup and transport her to Monterey Bay Aquarium.

The Monterey Bay Aquarium’s Sea Otter Program has been studying and helping recover the threatened Southern Sea Otter since 1984. The program works with other aquariums, such as Shedd, and wildlife rescue facilities to respond to every sea otter that comes ashore in distress along the California coast. Over the past 25 years, nearly 700 sea otters have come through this program.

Stranded Sea Otter pups require extensive round-the-clock care and there are only a handful of facilities in the United States with the available space, staff and experience to provide the appropriate care. Shedd officials and animal care staff quickly accepted Monterey Bay Aquarium’s call to provide the stranded pup with a permanent home.

To ensure the pup receives everything that she needs, a rotating schedule of six to eight animal care experts provides care and attention 24 hours a day, seven days a week. During this intensive nurturing period, she will remain behind the scenes in the Regenstein Sea Otter Nursery as she develops certain behaviors, such as grooming, foraging, and feeding, as well as regulating her own body temperature by getting in and out of the water.

As she acclimates to her new surroundings, Pup 681 reaches new milestones every day, including taking formula from a bottle, eating solid foods such as shrimp and clams and even climbing upon white towels when she gets wet to help her groom and regulate her body temperature.

More info and amazing pics, below the fold!

Annual surveys, from the United States Geological Survey (USGS), indicate that the Southern Sea Otter population index reached 2,944 in 2014. This number was a slight growth from 2,939 in 2013. Marking its 50th year of service assessing 74,000 species, the International Union for Conservation of Nature (IUCN) classified Sea Otters as “Threatened” on the Red List, referencing the slow recovery of Southern Sea Otters in California. Southern Sea Otters were listed as “Threatened” under the U.S. Endangered Species Act in 1977. The population of Southern Sea Otters has failed to grow consistently despite decades of federal and state protection.

With a long history of involvement with marine wildlife rescue projects, Shedd Aquarium is one of the first institutions to conduct training with Sea Otters to further their survival and care. After the Exxon Valdez oil spill in 1989, Shedd participated in the wildlife recovery efforts and took in many orphaned pups. The aquarium is now recognized as an expert in rehabilitating sea otter pups. Nearly all of the Sea Otters residing in the Abbott Oceanarium at Shedd were rescued pups: three northern and two southern subspecies, including Pup 681.

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