Staff stands in for pup’s mom to provide around the clock care

The first stranded sea otter pup of the season is progressing well at the Alaska SeaLife Center in Seward, under 24-hour care by the center’s Wildlife Response and Rehabilitation team, including feedings and assistance in learning essential skills, including grooming. Photo courtesy of the Alaska SeaLife Center

A sea otter brought from Cordova to the Alaska SeaLife Center in Seward as a tiny pup on March 18 is now thriving, with 24-hour care in the center’s “I Sea U” area, where the public can watch him being cared for by animal care specialists.

“This little otter pup shows every indication of thriving under our care,” said Dr. Kathy Woodie, staff veterinarian. “He is eager to groom himself, is turning himself over in the water and has learned to dive.”

Young otters are entirely dependent on their mothers for up to nine months. When admitted to the center’s Wildlife Response and Rehabilitation Program, staff must stand in for otter moms to provide constant care, and teach them the life skills they need to survive. Good grooming to maintain a healthy coat is particularly critical to otter health.

Initially the center’s staff worked to rehydrate the pup, get him started on otter pup formula and administer around-the-clock supportive care. He is now achieving the expected developmental milestones, including weight gain. Soft foods like clam have been integrated into his diet. While experiencing typical pup teething and associated sore gums, his coat and overall body condition are currently very good, staff said.

The otter pup is the second of two marine mammals to be admitted to the center since early March. Responders said they are watching this season carefully to see if the new trend in strandings continues, resulting in year-round concern for an issue that had been predominantly seasonal prior to 2015.

“Over the past two years, we have experienced a significant increase in total calls to our wildlife response hotline and in cases requiring action from our team, said Tara Riemer, president and chief executive officer of the center.

The Alaska SeaLife Center is the only permitted marine mammal wildlife response and rehabilitation entity in Alaska. Over 80 percent of its funding for wildlife response comes from charitable contributions.  Corporate sponsors of the program include BP Alaska, ConocoPhillips, PetZoo and GCI.

The center operates a 24-hour hotline at 1-888-774-SEAL, 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.

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