The Alaska SeaLife Center (ASLC) admitted a sea otter pup from Homer to the I.Sea.U critical care unit this week.
On Wednesday afternoon, multiple callers to the Center’s Stranding Hotline reported the sea otter pup on the road near Mud Bay at the base of the Homer spit. The Homer Stranding Network, a group of ASLC volunteers trained to assist with this type of situation, was called by the Center to investigate. After efforts to locate the mother were unsuccessful, the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service (USFWS) authorized the pup’s rescue.
The female sea otter pup is approximately six to eight weeks old and weighs almost eight pounds. Stranding Coordinator Tim Lebling reports that the pup “is doing well, eating 35% of her body weight daily from a bottle, and interacting with enrichment items.” Due to the maternal care required by young otters, pups this age are non-releasable.
The I.Sea.U was designed for sea otters; however, its first residents were two walrus calves recently transported to their new homes at the New York Aquarium and the Indianapolis Zoo on October 10. After a quick reconfiguration on Wednesday, the new animal care space was transformed into a sea otter nursery that can be viewed by visitors to the Center through one-way windows. The USFWS will determine the placement location for this animal, and the otter’s stay at the Center is expected to be short. Alaskans wishing to see the otter are encouraged to visit before the end of October.
The Alaska SeaLife Center is the only permanent marine rehabilitation center in Alaska, responding to stranded wildlife such as sea otters, harbor seals, and walrus. The Stranding Program responds to sea otters with the authorization of the USFWS. Once a stranded marine mammal is admitted to the ASLC, it receives care from experienced and dedicated veterinary and animal care staff.
“We have no federal or state funding to care for stranded sea otters, and we rely on donations to keep this program going. We thank Shell Exploration and Production, ConocoPhillips Alaska, and BP Alaska for their generous contributions earlier this year in support of wildlife rescue,” said Tara Riemer Jones, president and CEO. “It was a very active summer for our stranding program, and our financial resources to continue this work are depleted.”
The Alaska SeaLife Center operates a 24-hour hotline for the public to report stranded marine mammals or birds, and encourages people who have found a stranded or sick marine animal to avoid touching or approaching the animal; instead, those individuals should call 1-888-774-SEAL (7325).