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Sea otter pup rescued in Alaska finds new home in Shedd

In late October, a young sea otter pup was found in the remote Alaskan coastal town of Seldovia; He was stranded without his mother around and was screaming in distress. After being rehabilitated, fed and rehabilitated, the tiny otter, just over a month old, began a cross-country journey to his new home in Chicago.

After being rescued by the Alaska SeaLife Center, a 10-pound male northern sea otter received a warm welcome at the Shedd Aquarium in late November. He remained behind the scenes at the aquarium, where animal care and veterinary staff monitored and cared for him around the clock.

The newcomer will finally join the five south seas Otters at the Shedd — Luna, Cooper, Watson, Suri and Willow — they too are rescued. The pup, tentatively named Pup EL2306, is forming bonds with staff and reaching developmental milestones at the otter breeding farm before meeting his peers and experiencing his new habitat at the Shedd.

Stranded sea otter pups require constant care: Aquarium staff feed the new pup every three hours with bottled formula and small pieces of clam; they also groom him with soft towels and keep him busy with enrichment activities.

In a press release, Shedd Aquarium said many facilities in the United States do not have the space, staff and experience necessary to provide rescued otter pups the care they need. Only 11 institutions, including Shedd, provide homes for otters that cannot be re-released.

Because sea otter pups are largely dependent on their mothers for the first year of their lives, the federal government often designates orphaned northern sea otter pups as non-releasable if they are stranded while they are young.

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“At Shedd, we are committed to the care of animals here, there and everywhere; We are ready to help in times of need,” said Peggy Sloan, the aquarium’s head of animal conservation. “With this new addition to our rescued sea otter population, we are committed to its long-term care and continue to build connections with this important keystone species for Chicagoans.”

A juvenile northern otter, tentatively referred to as Pup EL2306, plays in his home area at the Shedd Aquarium in Chicago on Dec. 7, 2023.  Plans to name him will come later.

Like keystone typesSea otters help maintain the balance of their ecosystems. For example, they keep kelp forests healthy by eating sea urchins that graze on giant kelp; If otters disappear, urchins will decimate the algae on which many other species depend for food and shelter.

Northern sea otters are found in the Aleutian Islands, southern Alaska, British Columbia, Washington, California, and as far as Japan. Sea otter populations in south-central and southeast Alaska have stabilized or are increasing, according to the Shedd Aquarium.

However, the last two decades have seen a decline in the north. Sea otter populations in southwestern Alaska. Under the Endangered Species Act, they are considered “threatened.” This is due to predation, overharvesting, fishing interactions, disease and oil spills, according to Shedd.

Sea otter species as a whole are listed as follows: “Endangered” on the International Union for Conservation of Nature Red List. Commercial fishing and industrial pollution, as well as rising ocean temperatures due to climate change, are some of the ways human activities are particularly endangering species.

Shedd will continue to share updates on the developmental process when the pup can be expected to join the sea otter habitat and share plans to name him. aquarium last year let the people vote In Willow’s name.

adperez@chicagotribune.com

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