A tiny, two to four-week-old male sea otter is getting 24-hour care after he was found swimming alone in open waters off northern Vancouver Island on Sunday.
Although the pup appears healthy, the Vancouver Aquarium Marine Mammal Rescue Centre says he still require care night and day, just like he would from his mother. Rescue Centre staff are rotating through shifts in feeding, bathing and grooming the newborn pup, which hasn’t been named yet.
“Sea otters have high energetic needs; after birth they spend about six months with mom, nursing, being groomed by her and learning to forage and be a sea otter, so this little guy is still a fully dependent pup,” Lindsaye Akhurst, manager of the Marine Mammal Rescue Centre, said in a statement.
“He would not survive on his own, and we’re providing him with the care he needs right now.”
The pup was picked up by boaters after the sea otter approached them and then followed their boat, while making sounds. According to the report to the Rescue Centre, there were no adult sea otters in the area and once the pup was brought to Port Hardy, officers from the Department of Fisheries and Oceans (DFO) arranged for the sea otter to be taken to the aquarium.
Both the DFO and Rescue Centre know the actions of the boaters were well-intentioned but say the distressed pup should have been reported first rather than taken from the ocean.
“Once they’re removed from the wild it’s impossible to determine if the mother is alive and if they could have been reunited, or if bringing him in was the appropriate action,” said Akhurst.
The pup’s future will be decided by the DFO.
The Rescue Centre said this year has been a busy season. Along with the sea otter pup, the centre is providing care to a California sea lion, a stellar sea lion pup and 29 harbour seals.