Science & Technology



Surrogate otter mom at aquarium is rehabilitating pup 'better than any human ever can'

Lila Seidman, Los Angeles Times on

Published in Science & Technology News

Sometimes baby sea otters get separated from their mothers, who might fall victim to a predator or get swept away during a storm. If they aren’t reunited or rescued by people, the outlook isn’t good; most baby otters can’t survive long alone.

With the recent rollout of its otter surrogacy program, the Aquarium of the Pacific joined the Monterey Bay Aquarium’s efforts and has roughly doubled the capacity in California to rehabilitate orphan otters using adoptive moms — a method research has shown gives the otters the best chance ( about 75% ) of being wild again.

It’s a promising expansion, but still falls short of the need. Most years, more otters strand than the Long Beach and Monterey facilities can accommodate, according to staffers.

“So growing this program is going to be a pretty high priority for people that are invested in otter conservation,” Smylie said.

Hello 968

Toward the end of January, a passerby found 968 stranded north of Santa Cruz. Sometimes an otter mom can be heard calling out for her baby somewhere nearby. But the pup was all alone.


She was about 8 weeks old, and still dependent on her mother for survival. (Otter dads are not in the picture.)

So she was taken to the Monterey Bay Aquarium, where all sea otter pups stranded in California pass through. Her number denotes that she’s the 968th otter to enter the aquarium’s rehabilitation program.

Pups aren’t just tossed back into the surf; they must go through rehabilitation to learn how to be an otter.

So began her long, and still uncertain, path back to the chilly coastal waters of Central California.


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