A wild baby Sea Otter was born December 20th in the Great Tide Pool at Monterey Bay Aquarium!
For several days prior to the birth, a wild female Sea Otter had been using the protected basin of the Aquarium’s Great Tide Pool to rest from the winter storms. The night before her pup was born, just as the Aquarium closed, she was spotted slinking into the pool.
According to Monterey Bay staff, it’s rare for a healthy Sea Otter to visit the pool so frequently. The mystery was solved around 8:30 a.m. on December 20th when Aquarium staff witnessed a new pup resting on the proud new mom’s belly!
Since the event, Aquarium staff, volunteers, and visitors have made their way to watch a conservation success story take place.
Monterey Bay Aquarium will keep the public updated on this new otter family—even though mom may decide to head back out to the wild at any time. Currently though, she’s still grooming her pup and enjoying the comfort of the Great Tide Pool. Check out Monterey Bay Aquarium’s web page for further information: http://www.montereybayaquarium.org/
The Monterey Bay Aquarium's Sea Otter Program has been studying the threatened Southern Sea Otter since 1984 with the aim of understanding threats to the population and promoting its recovery. They also rescue, treat and release injured otters; raise and release stranded pups through a surrogate program; and seek homes for Sea Otters that can't return to the wild.
Southern Sea Otters (Enhydra lutris nereis) once ranged from Baja California to the Pacific Northwest. But, by the 1920s, they were almost extinct due to intensive hunting. They were listed as threatened under the Endangered Species Act in 1977. Monterey Bay Aquarium and their partners have contributed to the protection of the Sea Otter population in California.
Recent research by the U.S. Geological Survey and the Aquarium suggests that the Sea Otter population growth rate is limited by food availability. Meanwhile, the risk of a major oil spill remains a serious threat.
Sea Otters are an iconic species, representing the beauty and diversity of life in Monterey Bay. They're also a keystone species, determining the kinds and health of species in near-shore environments. They eat sea urchins and other invertebrates that graze on giant kelp. Without Sea Otters, urchins prevent kelp forests from forming important habitats for many animals. Similarly, their consumption of crabs in estuaries reduces predation on snails. The snails graze algae that otherwise choke eel grasses.
Sea Otters are also good indicators of ocean health. Since they are a top predator of invertebrates along the California coast, changes in their health can make scientists aware of variations in the ocean environment itself.
By 1911, when Sea Otters gained protection under the North Pacific Fur Seal Treaty, a small group of perhaps 50 otters survived along the remote Big Sur coast. Since then, they've slowly expanded their range and grown in number to nearly 3,000. As of 2014, their range extends from south of Half Moon Bay in the north to south of Point Conception in the south—only a small part of their historic range.
(All information courtesy of Monterey Bay Aquarium)