The male Sea Otter pup being cared for at the Vancouver Aquarium Marine Mammal Rescue Centre is now four months old. The fuzzy pup, named Hardy, was rescued after concerned members of the public found him swimming alone in open water off northern Vancouver Island back in June.
Since his rescue, staff and volunteers have spent shifts feeding, bathing and grooming the pup. Hardy recently began honing his swimming and diving techniques, and he can’t seem to get enough of practicing his new skills!
Since his arrival, the aquarium has anticipated an appropriate time to introduce the orphan to the rest of the Otters housed at the facility. Hardy was recently introduced to Vancouver Aquarium’s 13-year-old rescued female Sea Otter, Tanu, and she just may prove to be a valuable foster mom for the young pup.
Kristi Heffron, Senior Marine Mammal Trainer, shared, “It took Hardy a moment or two to realize that Tanu had joined him in the Finning Habitat. Then, Tanu went to Hardy and put him on her chest, just like a mother would do to her pup. After a little while, we saw them both swimming, grooming, and eating independently. They’re quite comfortable together.”
ZooBorns introduced the Otter pup to readers back in June when he was first rescued. At that time, Lindsaye Akhurst, Manager of the Marine Mammal Rescue Centre, which is presented by Port Metro Vancouver, made a statement concerning the rescue: “Sea Otters have high energetic needs; after birth they spend about six months with mom, nursing, being groomed by her and learning to forage and be a Sea Otter, so this little guy is still a fully dependent pup. He would not survive on his own, and we’re providing him with the care he needs right now.”
According to the report provided to the Rescue Centre, boaters collected the Sea Otter pup after it approached and then followed their boat while vocalizing. There were no adult Sea Otters in sight. Once in Port Hardy, officers from Fisheries and Oceans Canada (DFO) arranged for the transfer to the Vancouver Aquarium Marine Mammal Rescue Centre. Although well intentioned, both DFO officials and Rescue Centre personnel say the distressed animal should have been reported first rather than taken from the ocean. “Once they’re removed from the wild it’s impossible to determine if the mother is alive and if they could have been reunited, or if bringing him in was the appropriate action,” said Akhurst.
Paul Cottrell, Marine Mammals Coordinator, Pacific Region, DFO, reminds the public that touching or capturing wild marine mammals is illegal. Decisions about the pup’s future will be made by DFO.
Once extinct from Canada, the Sea Otter (Enhydra lutris) has successfully been reintroduced to British Columbia, and mainly lives off Vancouver Island. Subsequent population growth and range expansion enabled the Government of Canada to change the listing of the species from “Threatened” to “Special Concern” in 2009, as recommended by COSEWIC.
Major causes of death among Sea Otters are lack of food, predators and environmental contamination. A recent study, conducted by researchers from UC Santa Cruz, U.S. Geological Survey and the Monterey Bay Aquarium, and published in the Journal of Experimental Biology, found the energetic cost of rearing Sea Otter pups could also be leading to higher mortality rates in adult females, and more incidents of pup abandonment.
The Vancouver Aquarium Marine Mammal Rescue Centre, a hospital for sick, injured or orphaned marine mammals, is the only one of its kind in Canada. Under authorization from DFO, the team rescues, rehabilitates and releases more than 100 animals each year; in 2016, they rescued more than 170 animals. For every patient, the goal is to treat, rehabilitate and return it to the wild as soon as possible. The veterinary team provides medical treatment to Harbor Seals, Sea Otters, Sea Lions, Sea Turtles, Elephant Seals, Whales, Dolphins, and Porpoises.
The Vancouver Aquarium would like to remind the public, if you see a stranded marine mammal, do not approach it and keep domestic pets away. Call the Vancouver Aquarium’s Marine Mammal Rescue Centre at 604.258.SEAL (7325) for immediate assistance.
To report abandoned or injured wildlife in the United States, contact the U.S. Fish & Wildlife Service at: 1.844.397.8477
*The Vancouver Aquarium is a self-supporting, accredited institution and does not receive ongoing funds to provide around-the-clock care for its rescued and rehabilitated animals. To make a contribution for the care of this Sea Otter pup, please visit support.ocean.org/rescuedotter.