Ever wonder what it’s like to spend playtime with a sea otter pup? Find out from the experts. Join a Google Hangout on Air on Tuesday, November 18, at 10 a.m. PST. This live chat includes staff from the Monterey Bay and Shedd Aquariums, who cooperated in finding a home for the fluffiness you see here. 

RSVP today! 



Your daily dose of cute: A five-week old southern sea otter pup. This orphaned pup was rescued by Monterey Bay Aquarium and now calls Shedd Aquarium in Chicago home. Listed as a threatened species, southern sea otters live in the nearshore waters along the mainland coastline of California and are among the smallest of marine mammals. Check out the Ventura Fish and Wildlife Office to learn more about ongoing conservation efforts to ensure these beautiful creatures remain a part of our marine environment.

Photo courtesy of Brenna Hernandez, Shedd Aquarium.


A pup rescued by the Aquarium has found a happy home at Shedd Aquarium!

According to ABC News, “The word ‘adorable’ doesn’t do this rescued baby sea otter pup justice.” Learn more and watch the ABC video.

Weighing just under six pounds and at 22.6 inches long, the female pup arrived at Shedd last Tuesday from Monterey, 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. She is the second pup from the threatened southern sea otter population to reside at Shedd. She’s 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.

“Pup 681’s situation was urgent. As an organization dedicated to marine mammal care and conservation, we were perfectly positioned to ensure that this little pup had a home, providing the long-term care needed to survive,” said Tim Binder, Vice President of Animal Collections for Shedd. “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.”

Estimated to be only one week old and weighing in at just over two  pounds, the female pup was found on September 30 on Coastways Beach in California between the San Mateo and Santa Cruz county line. 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 Otter Program and scientists determined the pup could not be retrieved that evening due to the remote location and impending darkness. On the morning of Oct. 1, the pup was still in the same location and determined to have been orphaned. 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 the Monterey Bay Aquarium. 

“On arrival in Monterey, 681 weighed 1.0 kg, which is tiny for a newborn sea otter, and she had been separated from mom for at least 16 hours. This meant it was critical that we begin to get calories into her as quickly as possible,” said Karl Mayer, Animal Care Coordinator for the Sea Otter Program.

(Photos Shedd Aquarium)


Sea Otter 9-1-1

The internet is awash with sea otter cuteness this week.

Media outlets from “Good Morning America" to Mashable are celebrating the arrival at Chicago’s Shedd Aquarium of Otter 681, a pup rescued last month through our sea otter program who couldn’t be raised for return to the wild.

We reached out to our colleagues at Shedd, who offered a permanent home for the orphaned female pup. 

The arrival of Otter 681 in Chicago is a joyful event. It’s also business as usual for our dedicated sea otter team.

Shedd Aquarium is one of a dozen colleague institutions in the United States that have provided homes to non-releasable pups rescued through our program. From the Great Lakes to the Gulf Coast, from Coney Island to Oregon, from Long Beach to Atlanta, nearly 40 southern sea otters are inspiring millions of zoo and aquarium visitors to learn more, care more and do more for sea otters.

Every one of those otters came through our program.

30 years of dedication

For more than 30 years, we’ve served as the nation’s only facility dedicated to rescue, treatment and release for California’s threatened sea otter population—the 9-1-1  center when a sea otter washes ashore in California.

Otter 681 has her (temporary) designation because she’s the 681st animal we’ve cared for over the years.

Some were ill adults that we nursed back to health and returned to the wild. Some were old and infirm—perhaps at the end of their life span, or the victims of shark bites or serious disease. They were humanely euthanized by our staff.

To care for newborn pups, we pioneered a program in which female sea otters from our  exhibit—otters that can’t be released—serve as surrogate moms, raising orphaned pups and imparting skills the pups need to survive on their own.

Successful surrogate moms

Because otter pups—like human babies—must learn a lot from their mothers, we can only release animals that are cared for by a surrogate. In the case of Otter 681, no surrogate was available.

Since 2001, our “working moms” have cared for more than 30 stranded pups that we later returned to the wild. The most celebrated animal was the subject of the PBS Nature documentary, “Saving Otter 501.” Her mom, Toola, was our first-ever surrogate mother, and raised 13 pups before her death in 2012.

Back in the wild, surrogate-reared females have grown up and given birth to at least two dozen pups of their own.

Many contributions

Rescuing ill, injured and orphaned sea otters is one small part of what we’re contributing to the recovery of California sea otters—a threatened population whose numbers still hover around 3,000 animals. We’re a research partner on studies that advance sea otter science—in the Russian Far East, throughout Alaskan waters, and along the length of the West Coast. And we’re working to support policies and legislation that contribute to sea otter recovery.

Much of our work goes on unseen. But when a pup like Otter 681 comes along, we rejoice in the attention her story attracts. This one fuzzy pup reminds people across the country that sea otters – and many other species – need our help if they’re going to thrive in the wild.

Learn how you can support our sea otter work.

(Photos ©Shedd Aquarium/Brenna Hernandez)