Remember sea otter pup 719, who was rescued by our Sea Otter Program last month? We’re happy to announce that she’s found a permanent home at Shedd Aquarium in Chicago! Here’s a behind-the-scenes look at her journey from rescued pup to new member of the Shedd family.
On January 6, a four-week-old sea otter pup stranded off Carmel Beach during a storm. She was reported rolling in the surf alone and crying. Our Sea Otter Program staff responded, and after rescuing the shivering pup, tried to locate her mother.
Unfortunately, after an extensive search of the area, we were unable to find mom, and our team brought the little orphan back to the Aquarium for care. Dubbed “719” as the 719th otter we’ve taken in since 1984, she received near round-the-clock care from staff and volunteers to nurse her back to health.
Tender loving care—and more care
The Monterey Bay Aquarium has the only program in the world that focuses on rescuing and caring for stranded southern sea otter pups. We raise pups for release back into the wild, and try to place non-releasable pups in long-term homes at accredited U.S. aquariums and zoos.
Prepping a pup for release to the wild is an intensive, long-term project. After initial guidance through early developmental stages from our Sea Otter Program staff, pups must complete a survival skills class with one of our five resident female sea otters during a months-long surrogacy—a lot of work for everyone involved!
When 719 stranded, all of our available surrogates were already paired with other rescued pups—so our next option was finding a forever home for the pup at an AZA accredited institution. Luckily, our friends and close colleagues at Shedd Aquarium had room available in their sea otter exhibit!
When we heard the good news, we started preparing the pup for her big move to Chicago. Our Sea Otter Program staff got the pup acclimated to face-to-face human care during swimming and grooming sessions, bottle feeding and the transition from formula to solid food.
On a steady diet of tender loving care (and a sea lion’s share of clams), the lively youngster quickly grew stronger. She shed her pup coat and her otter skills developed day by day.
Karl Mayer, whose Sea Otter Program team spent many hours caring for 719, reported: “She’s a very robust and feisty pup. Developmentally she’s slightly ahead of the curve, especially compared to animals that stranded as newborns. This reflects that she came in as a healthy four-week-old-pup. She’s diving consistently down to the bottom of her pool, she’s retrieving food and rocks and shells, and she’s very dexterous with her paws.”
After almost two weeks of caring for 719, on January 21 our staff welcomed Shedd animal trainer Michael Pratt to work with our team in Monterey and meet the now-not-so-little pup.
After a week of close collaboration, we said farewell to Pup 719 and Michael and Shedd veterinarian Dr. Caryn Poll accompanied her to her new home!
A lucky girl indeed
We’re grateful that Shedd Aquarium was able to provide a caring home for Pup 719. During El Niño years like this one, storms can result in more strandings than usual, making it all the more challenging to manage the care of, or find homes for, sea otter pups that strand along the California coast. In rare cases, we’re able to reunite the pups with their mothers in the wild. When one of our surrogate sea otter moms is available, we rear pups for release. If we can’t raise them for release, and none of our colleagues can offer a permanent home, as a very last option, some pups have to be humanely euthanized.
Southern sea otters play a critical role in shaping and restoring many coastal habitats—and they’re also a threatened species. 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.
In otter news…
Another sea otter currently in our care is also gearing up for his next adventure—in the wild! Stay tuned for news about the release of Pup 696, one of several rescued pups currently being raised at the Monterey Bay Aquarium for wild release.
Two sea otters backstroking across the glassy surface of Elkhorn Slough between Santa Cruz and Monterey. Elkhorn is a seven mile long estuary and home to California’s densest population of sea otters. Read more from the pages of our magazine at bit.ly/ElkhornSlough—photo by Kiliii Yuyan @kiliiifish.
#California #monterey #santacruz #west #animal #wildlife #seaotter #protectpreserve #livenature (at Elkhorn Slough)