Shedd Aquarium Animal Response Team Flies Cross-Country to Alaska to Care for Stranded Sea Otter Pup

While Shedd guests and staff celebrate Sea Otter Awareness Week here in Chicago, a sea otter expert from the aquarium is up in Alaska working around-the-clock to care for an abandoned sea otter pup. The aquarium’s Animal Response Team received a call from its partner the Alaska SeaLife Center (ASLC), the only permitted stranded marine mammal response facility in the state, to assist in the rehabilitation of a three-month-old Northern sea otter (Enhydra lutris kenyoni). Shedd is one of just a few facilities in the country with the expertise and capabilities to care for these endangered species. 

On September 7, the pup was admitted to ASLC’s Wildlife Response and Rehabilitation Program located in Seward, Alaska. Good Samaritans found the pup alone on a beach in Kasilof, Alaska. The sea otter, which the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service deemed non-releasable, was estimated by ASLC staff veterinarians to be about two months old and was named after the town where he was found.

When Kasilof arrived at ASLC, animal care staff noticed his glucose levels were extremely low and he was starving, so they immediately worked to get his diet and fluids improved. His pup fur was also damaged causing a loss of body heat. ASLC and Shedd experts have been working extensively to ensure his sea otter pup coat, or pup fur, is getting in the best condition possible so it can store heat – an important milestone to ensure a healthy, thriving otter.

The first nine months of an otter’s development are critical because they are completely dependent on their mothers to teach them survival skills necessary to live in the wild. Abandoned or orphaned sea otter pups are therefore helpless and must be rescued in order to survive. The extensive rehabilitation process ensures the otter pup hits expected developmental milestones that enables pups to thrive.

Kasilof is now receiving the “otter-ly” best 24/7 care, with feedings every three hours consisting of a bottle and capelin and clam, daily grooming, and regular check-ups. Under the supervision of animal care experts at ASLC and Shedd Aquarium, the pup is continuing to improve and meeting important milestones. Throughout his rehabilitation, he’ll learn to groom, swim, forage and more. 

If Chicagoans want to help support Shedd’s sea otter efforts, they can donate directly to the aquarium or participate in Shedd’s Adopt-an-Otter program, or you can visit http://www.alaskasealife.org/donate.

BACKGROUND: Shedd Aquarium is dedicated to caring for animals both in our care and in the wild. The Animal Response Team has been rehabilitating sea otters for more than 20 years, and Shedd is one of the first institutions to conduct training with sea otters to further their survival and care. Nearly all of the sea otters residing in the Abbott Oceanarium at Shedd were rescued pups – three Northern and two Southern subspecies. This puts the organization in the unique position to provide its expertise and assist when called upon by the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service and partnering institutions.

VISUALS: Photos and b-roll video of the sea otter pup behind the scenes at Alaska SeaLife Center are available for download at: https://personal.filesanywhere.com/fs/v.aspx?v=8d7065885f5f6fa970a0

Photo credit:©Activities in pictures are authorized by USFWS COA/MA 73418B
Photo credit: ©Shedd Aquarium/Brenna Hernandez
Video credit: ©Shedd Aquarium/Sam Cejtin

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