Just before the dark of night, the little cry of a baby sea otter drew the attention of a passerby out for an evening stroll!
This tiny newborn Sea Otter, currently called “Pup 681,” was found on the Coastways Beach of California, on September 30th. She was alone, separated from her mother. The beach walker who discovered her quickly notified The Marine Mammal Center (TMMC). They in turn contacted the Monterey Bay Aquarium.
Due to the remote location and the ascending darkness, scientists from the aquarium’s Sea Otter Program were unable to retrieve the baby until early the next morning. This baby had been separated from her mother for at least 16 hours. She was estimated to be only one week old and weighed just a little over 2 pounds. She immediately began to receive bottle feedings and round-the clock care at the Monterey Bay Aquarium.
On October 28th, at five weeks of age and weighing just less than 6 pounds, the orphaned baby was transferred to Chicago’s Shedd Aquarium. She has been doing well since her arrival and continues to receive the continual care she needs to thrive.
The finding and rescue of this darling baby opens up a wonderful opportunity. Although this baby will most likely not be living her life in the wild, humans will have an occasion to experience these fabulous creatures. Sea otters are simply not critters most of us would often come across, not even on an evening’s beach stroll.
At the beginnings of our nation Sea otters were of major economic value. In those early days they were widely trapped throughout both the United States and Canada for their pelts. They are no longer trapped today, but unfortunately decades more of habitat decline, pollution, and of course, natural predation, have continued to threaten their very survival.
These marine mammals are a vital component to the oceans environment. Sea otters provided an ecological balance by helping to control the populations of sea urchins, which in turn feed on the giant kelp forests.
Kelp forests are the home to many forms of marine life and when the populations of sea urchins go unchecked, they can destroy these underwater forests. There are a number of ongoing conservation and recovery efforts for sea otters today, especially in California and Alaska.
Most of us have only had a chance to see these unusual marine mammals in documentaries or via the images of wildlife photographers. However the Monterey Bay Aquarium and Several other public aquariums along the Pacific coast do provide excellent exhibits of sea otters.
Now at Chicago’s Shedd Aquarium, people on the other side of the continent will also be able to see these wonderous animals. They will be able to have an up-close and personal experience too!
“Pup 681” is the second pup to reside at Shedd’s Abbott Oceanarium. Tim Binder, Vice President of Animal Collections for Shedd, says “This rescued animal provides an opportunity for us to learn more about the biological and behavioral attributes of this threatened species and to encourage people to preserve and protect them in the wild.”
Clarice Brough is a team member at Animal-World and has contributed many articles and write-ups.
Photos courtesy of Shedd Aquarium/Brenna Hernandez.