Rescued Baby Sea Otter Finds Home at Shedd Aquarium

The sea otter pup at the Monterey Bay Aquarium, shortly after her rescue. (Monterey Bay Aquarium / Tyson Rininger)

A 10-week-old sea otter pup is rehabilitating and settling into her new home at the Shedd Aquarium after being rescued in California last month. 

On Jan. 6, the pup was found alone on Carmel Beach in Carmel, California by the Monterey Bay Aquarium’s southern sea otter program staff. A rough storm, fueled by this season’s particularly strong El Niño weather pattern, likely separated the pup from her mother. After several unsuccessful attempts to find the mother via the pup’s distress cries, staff brought her to the aquarium's veterinary intensive care unit where she was estimated to be four weeks old at the time.

After three weeks of recovery on the West Coast, the baby southern sea otter arrived at the Shedd Aquarium on Jan. 27. Now at 11 pounds, she’s showing strong signs of recovery, like eating solid foods such as clams and shrimp, diving and foraging for food as well as interacting with animal care staff.

Stranded sea otter pups require extensive, continuous care due to the importance of their early life development.

The baby sea otter during her first day at the Shedd Aquarium. (Shedd Aquarium / Brenna Hernandez)

“A really young pup is completely dependent on its mother for the first few weeks of its life,” said Michael Pratt, the Shedd’s sea otter trainer. “Their mother teaches them all of their survival skills, even eating solid food while floating on their backs.”

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The aquarium in Monterey had no surrogate mother otters available to raise the pup when she was found, so she was sent to Shedd, where a team acts as her surrogate as part of its sea otter rescue program. And because she’s not being raised by her mother, the pup would have slim chances for survival in the wild and will not be released from captivity, Shedd officials said.

“Because she’s spent so much time in the presence of humans, she essentially becomes dependent on us,” said Pratt. “She would want to associate with humans in the wild, which isn’t safe for her or any humans that might be in the wild.”

Monterey Bay Aquarium employee Karl Mayer watches as Shedd Aquarium trainer Michael Pratt feeds the rescued southern sea otter. (Monterey Bay Aquarium / Tyson Rininger)

For the time being, she’s been dubbed “Pup 719” – a reference to how many otters the Monterey Bay Aquarium’s sea otter program has rescued since it began in 1984. Of those 719 pups, the Shedd has adopted three from Monterey.

But she won’t carry that rather uninspired title forever. The aquarium says they'll give her a new name, although they don’t yet have specific plans for how they’ll decide on one or exactly when that will happen. In December 2014, another orphaned baby sea otter rescued by Monterey and given to the Shedd was named Luna by public vote.

Until she’s deemed 100 percent healthy and acclimated to her new habitat, this new baby otter will be receiving around-the-clock care from a rotating team of six to eight animal care experts in the Shedd's sea otter nursery. Pratt says it could take several months before she joins the four other resident sea otters on exhibit.

Watch a video from the Shedd Aquarium about the recent rescue:

Follow Evan Garcia on Twitter: @EvanRGarcia


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