A rescued 4-month-old baby sea otter, which was found stranded without its mother in Carmel-by-the-Sea, recently made Long Beach its home, the aquarium announced this week.
The young male pup was found on April 12 at about 4 weeks old. He was taken to the Monterey Bay Aquarium, where staff attempted to match him with a surrogate in hopes of one day releasing him back into the wild, according to a recent press release.
After several unsuccessful matching attempts, the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service deemed him unreleasable.
The Long Beach Aquarium has an otter habitat that currently only houses otters that cannot be returned to the wild.
“At the age he was when he got stranded and the lack of connection to the surrogate made him non-releasable,” said Megan Smylie, senior mammologist at Aquarium of the Pacific. “His success without a mother at that age, going back to the ocean wouldn’t be good.”
The pub arrived at the Aquarium of the Pacific last month, around the time the Long Beach facility suffered a sudden death: Betty the sea otter died unexpectedly in mid-July; she was 10 years old, about the average age for a female otter in captivity and with no known health issues.
The arrival of the new pup, however, continued the trend of young otters settling in since December.
When he arrived in Long Beach, the pup was placed in a backstage pool so he could meet the other otters for the first time – in a controlled environment that allowed staff to care for him.
The pup met a resident adult sea otter, Chloe, who has lived with other otters in the aquarium exhibit since she arrived at 3 months old. She has helped introduce other puppies to their new surroundings in the past.
“Chloe and the pup socialize well together and have formed a close bond,” Brett Long, the aquarium’s marine mammal and bird curator, said in a statement this week.
Sea otters naturally live in social populations, Smylie said, so the aquarium tries to mimic that same dynamic as closely as possible, which is why pairing the new pup with Chloe was important.
“There was a lot of sniffing, which is a great communication tactic between these animals,” Smylie said. “She showed him toys and she taught him how to be comfortable in those environments.”
After spending about 10 days in the pool, the pup moved on to the sea otter habitat of the aquarium.
“He’s very confident,” Smylie said.
And now the public has the chance to name it.
The aquarium offers the opportunity to help name the newest sea otter through its Adopt-An-Animal program, which helps fund education and conservation initiatives, animal rehabilitation work, and breeding efforts.
Those who virtually adopt the pup by September 30 at the $100 or higher level will be able to submit a name suggestion for him. The donation will also help the aquarium continue to provide support and care for the sea otter’s needs.
If the suggestion is accepted by the aquarium animal care team, the person who suggested it will be invited to a feeding and training session with one of the aquarium animals.
“It’s really fun to see what people come up with,” Smylie said, “and we’re so grateful that people are willing to support our program.”
If people decide to visit the new resident, he can be identified by the slightly lighter fur on his face. His blond eyebrows and cheeks will make him easy to spot.
This pup, however, isn’t the only newcomer to the aquarium recently. Four other rescued young sea otters have arrived since December, according to a news release.
The Long Beach and Monterey Bay aquariums formed a partnership two years ago with the goal of simultaneously increasing the number of otters that can be groomed for life in the wild.
Monterey Bay has long been home to otters who, thanks to a surrogacy program, are eventually released into the wild; this surrogacy program uses non-releasable female otters to educate the pups.
The Long Beach Aquarium, meanwhile, welcomes those who cannot be released into the wild.
But that will soon change.
The Long Beach facility is weeks away from completing construction of its new surrogacy pools, which will allow the Aquarium of the Pacific – with guidance from its northern colleague – to prepare the otters as well. to return to nature, Smylie said.
“We’re very grateful to be able to partner with them,” Smylie said, “to expand that capacity and really double the number of otters that will eventually be able to return to the ocean.”
For more information on suggesting a name for the new sea otter, visit pacific.to/adoptpup.