Less than three weeks had passed in 2020 before the Alaska SeaLife Center in Seward rescued its first stranded animal of the decade: a young, male sea otter pup.
On Jan. 17, a resident of Seldovia called the SeaLife Center’s stranding hotline to report that the otter pup — only two weeks old at the time — had been found on a beach surrounded by birds and with snowballs embedded in his fur, according to a Tuesday press release from the center.
“Sea otters leave their young in what they perceive to be a safe place while they forage for food,” the press release said. “If people or pets are nearby when they return they are likely to abandon their young.”
Since 1972, the Marine Mammal Protection Act has prohibited any disturbance to marine mammals without permission from the appropriate government agency, in this case the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service.
After the SeaLife Center received permission to rescue the pup from Fish and Wildlife, a Homer-based bear viewing company called Smokey Bay Air donated a flight to Seldovia and brought the pup to Homer. From there, volunteers transported the otter to the SeaLife Center in Seward.
The pup is now seven weeks old and is under 24-hour care from the SeaLife Center’s Wildlife Response Team.
“Young otter pups like this one need constant care and attention, from grooming his coat to encouraging him to play in the pool,” Wildlife Response Curator Jane Belovarac said in the press release. “We are with him around the clock.”
The otter pup is currently eating every three hours, and his diet consists of both formula and solid food. The Wildlife Response team recently introduced clam into his diet and the pup is progressing well, according to the release.
The caretakers at the SeaLife Center are focusing on teaching him proper grooming skills and “swimming with purpose,” and according to the release, the young otter has already shown himself to be an athletic swimmer.
If a sick or injured animal is found, the staff at the SeaLife Center urge people to call their 24-hour stranding hotline at 1-888-774-7325 so that trained professionals can walk through the proper steps in assisting the animal.