CHICAGO, Nov. 5 (UPI) -- An orphaned sea otter pup is getting a second chance at the Shedd Aquarium in Chicago. The five-week-old southern sea otter (Enhydra lutris nereis) was rescued in late September from Southern California's Coastways Beach near Santa Cruz.
The pup was found alone and afraid. After confirming the pup had been abandoned by its mother, officials with the United States Fish and Wildlife Service, the California Department of Fish and Wildlife and the Monterey Bay Aquarium removed the otter from the beach. After a month spent being nursed to health at Monterey, the pup was transferred last week to Shedd Aquarium in Chicago.
"Pup 681's situation was urgent," Tim Binder, Vice President of Animal Collections for Shedd, said in a press release. "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."
"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," Binder added.
Though stable, the orphaned otter will still need extra care and attention to ensure its transition is a success. Having been abandoned as a one-week-old pup, the baby otter must be essentially taught how to be an otter by the staff at Shedd.
"It truly takes a village to rehabilitate a young sea otter. Our animal care team is teaching the pup how to be an otter," said Binder. "While the process is lengthy, our hands-on experience and long history rehabilitating sea otters allows us to use our expertise to work on saving this pup's life by providing her with a home and the care she needs."
So far so good. The otter, which weighed roughly one pound when it was rescued -- tiny even for an otter pup -- is now over six pounds and is beginning to eat whole foods like shrimp and clams. She's grown to roughly 22 inches in length and is off the charts on the unofficial adorable scale.
Pup 681 is the second otter adopted by Shedd Aquarium. Sea otters were once abundant in California, but were decimated by the fur trade. Numbers have rebounded, but because they are still threatened by habitat destruction, they are listed as endangered. At last count, there were nearly 3,000 sea otters in California.