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Another Rescued Sea Otter Pup Finds a Home at Shedd Aquarium

After nearly two months of rehabilitation at the Alaska SeaLife Center, male pup finds home in Chicago

October 27, 2022

Sea otter pup floats on his back with his paws together on his chest as he looks at the camera.

A recognized leader in animal care and conservation, Shedd Aquarium has welcomed another sea otter pup in need to its rescued population. Qilak (pronounced Kee-lak), a five-month-old rescued male northern sea otter (Enhydra lutris kenyoni), is the third rescued otter to make its new home at the aquarium this month, following the arrival of Otter 926 and Otter 929 from California announced earlier in October.

Since his rescue, the pup received around-the-clock care at the Alaska SeaLife Center (ASLC) in Seward, AK, the only permitted stranding marine mammal response facility in the state. Members of Shedd’s animal care and response team worked alongside partners to rehabilitate Qilak before bringing him to Shedd on Oct. 25. For now, Qilak remains behind the scenes as he continues to reach milestones and build bonds with the animal care team and other otters at Shedd.

Qilak spent nearly two months being monitored day and night and receiving regular health exams by ASLC staff. He has feedings every four hours, which has slowly decreased as he continues to grow and progress. He has been doing well since his arrival in Chicago, receiving continual care behind the scenes at Shedd’s Abbott Oceanarium. At five months old, he is a bit older than past rescues, which means he has already met some developmental milestones and continues to show signs of independence. The animal care team at Shedd looks forward to watching him continue to grow and thrive. Qilak’s next few milestones will be learning his new habitats, bonding with other otters and more.

“As an organization dedicated to care and conservation, Shedd Aquarium is equipped to step in to assist our partners, and in this case, we offered rehabilitation support and ultimately a home for this pup in need,” said Peggy Sloan, chief animal operations officer at Shedd Aquarium. “Our rescued population of sea otters are important ambassadors for their wild counterparts creating compassion for this keystone, endangered species.”

Qilak was admitted to ASLC’s Wildlife Response program for care on Sept. 7 after a caller to their hotline reported a pair of otters on a remote beach in the western Kenai Peninsula. There was a juvenile pup vocalizing on top of a female sea otter barely moving or breathing. Efforts centered on saving the male pup, who was too young to survive on his own, and it was decided that the mother was too dire to survive transport or treatment. Observers confirmed her passing the next day.

The pup was examined at ASLC and found to be underweight, but otherwise, he was strong and alert. Veterinarians and animal care team members monitored him closely to ensure he remained in good condition. He was already eating solid foods, swimming, grooming and more. During his rehabilitation, Shedd’s animal care team sent a rotating group of support staff to work alongside ASLC for round-the-clock care. ASLC led the pup’s naming that resulted in Qilak, which means dome of the sky, the entire sky or heaven in Inuit.

“Otter pups need care and attention 24 hours a day, seven days a week, so it takes a village to rehabilitate a young animal,” said Jane Belovarac, Wildlife Response Curator at ASLC. “While the process is lengthy, there is nothing more rewarding than watching our patients grow and find their homes. We’ve been honored to be part of his second chance at life, and we’ll continue to follow his journey.”

Qilak joins the rescued sea otter population at Shedd Aquarium, including the other new arrivals Otters 926 and 929 that can now occasionally be seen on exhibit in the Abbott Oceanarium. There are now a total of six sea otters that call the aquarium home. Find more information about sea otters at Shedd on the aquarium’s website: https://www.sheddaquarium.org/animals/sea-otter.

VISUALS: For a behind-the-scenes look at the new northern sea otter pup, find high-resolution photos and video here: https://personal.filesanywhere.com/fs/v.aspx?v=8e6d678b61657376ae6d.
Credit: ©Shedd Aquarium unless otherwise noted as Alaska SeaLife Center