From now until June 1st the Alaska SeaLife Center (ASLC) is offering a unique opportunity for people to see some of Alaska’s wild sea life up close according to Jennifer Gibbins, director of communications and marketing. “ASLC is inviting visitors to get a closer look at the adorable and charismatic sea otters currently in residence at the Center, including a tiny fur ball of a pup. We have six otters in residence right now which have come in through our wildlife response program where we respond to stranded animals and when appropriate we admit them to our wildlife rehabilitation program. We only intervene when the animal is less than six months old and from then on we actually play the role of mama, which as all moms know is demanding. ASLC is not only a public aquarium but a scientific research facility, so when we are caring for these animals the priority is animal care and health, but the other is to glean all we can from these animals. We are seeing an uptick in otter stranding and the scientists are still learning what might be causing this,” she told the Dispatch in an interview, “This is the first time the public can view these otters one of which is a fur ball of a pup about a month old and five other young otters about f months old that are just young a charismatic, rambunctious group that are a lot of fun to watch,” she said.
The ASLC, a non-profit organization, is the only permitted marine mammal wildlife rehabilitation entity in Alaska. In addition to viewing from the Center’s general admission areas and “I.Sea.U.” overlook, for a limited time this spring, the sea otters are the latest animals to be added to the list of ASLC Animal Encounter Tours. “I tell people who come to see the otters, don’t worry about how cute they are, let me tell you how cool they are,” says Emmy Wood, an ASLC mammologist who specializes in otter care. The 30-min Otter Encounter Tours are led by expert animal care givers from the ASLC and are suitable for ages 6 and up. Visitors learn more about sea otters, a highly specialized keystone species in the marine ecosystem. Participants also have the opportunity to join animal care givers to observe a feeding or animal enrichment session in the outdoor otter pool. Young otters are entirely dependent on their mothers for up to nine months. Admitting the tiny patients to the Center’s Wildlife Rehabilitation Program means standing in for otter moms to provide constant care for the duration, teaching them all the skills they need to survive from basic potty training and grooming – and the laundry that goes with that – to teaching the otters how to forage for food and survive in the wild. The minimum age for Otter Encounter Tour is 6 years old. Maximum of 12 people per tour. Reservations are strongly encouraged. Limited space available. To book a reservation please call the ASLC Reservation Hotline 1-888-378-2525 or email firstname.lastname@example.org. Proceeds from admission and tours support the work of the ASLC, a private, non-profit research institution and public aquarium. Otter encounters are only until 2 p.m. daily through June 1st.