sea otter pups

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Sea otters are extraordinarily devoted mothers.  Female sea otters will carry their pups on their chests, constantly grooming their fur to make sure the pup stays warm and buoyant.  She will leave her baby only to find food, and will wrap the pup in kelp to make sure it stays safe and in one place.  Her milk, rich in fat like that of whales or seals, sustains her baby for up to six months in southern populations, or up to a year in northern areas.  If the pup dies, the mother will continue to carry the little corpse for days following its death.  Female sea otters have also been recorded adopting orphaned pups.

On the other extreme, however, if conditions become particularly harsh a mother sea otter may abandon her pup.  In particular, on the rare occasion that a sea otter gives birth to twins, the weaker pup may be abandoned to ensure the survival of its sibling.

youtube

Thanks @emzbratz for sending me a link to this ridiculously fantastic video. This little otter is so sweet - the little squeaks melt my heart!

The squee heard ‘round the world!

As you probably know by now, a wild baby sea otter was born this morning in our Great Tide Pool! For the last several days, a wild female sea otter had been using the protected basin of our Great Tide Pool to rest from the winter storms. Last night, just as the Aquarium closed, she was spotted once again slinking into the pool for some shut-eye. It’s rare for a healthy sea otter to visit the pool so frequently—we started to wonder if she was doing all right.

Well, mystery solved! Around 8:30 a.m., Aquarium staff witnessed a BRAND NEW pup resting on her belly, being furiously groomed by a proud momma. We’re talking umbilical-chord-still-attached, whoa-is-that-yep-that’s-the-placenta new-born otter pup!

In steady waves, Aquarium staff, volunteers, and then the days’ visitors made their way to the back deck to watch a conservation success story taking place—and become fluffier in front of their eyes. Not that long ago, sea otters were hunted to near extinction. Maybe 50 were left in all of California by the early 1800’s. But now, thanks to legislative protection and a change of heart toward these furriest of sea creatures, the otter population has rebounded to steady levels in the Monterey Bay, and with 3,000 total in central California. 

We’ll keep you updated on this new otter family—mom may decide to head out any time. As of this writing though, she’s still grooming her pup and enjoying the comfort of our Great Tide Pool. The cute overload continues.