A four-month-old sea otter pup found abandoned and extremely malnourished on a beach near Kasilof is making progress toward recovery in the Alaska SeaLife Center’s Wildlife Response Program, but is still a critical care patient, say the center’s veterinary staff.
While it is critical for him to gain weight, it has to be a slow process, so as not to overwhelm his body, as sea otters have a very sensitive gastrointestinal tract, said to Dr. Carrie Goertz, director of animal health. Each day caregivers at the center are working to rehydrate and add calories back into his emaciated system.
The pup was spotted on the beach on Sept. 27, with no other sea otters in sight. It was confirmed that he was stranded, based on his very poor body condition, with prominent hip bones and spine and a lethargic demeanor. After receiving approval from U.S. Fish and Wildlife, the pup was transported to the SeaLife Center.
The pup’s weight upon arrival was 11 pounds, which is significantly under the expected weight for an otter his age.
“By weight alone, we predicted he was two months old,” Goertz said. “When we got a better look at his teeth, learned his food preferences and noticed his transitioning coat we knew he was closer to four months old. Other otters that we’ve seen around this age were 15 to 24 pounds.”
Apparently the pup had not eaten for some time and his gastrointestinal tract was empty, but after a couple of days of fluid treatments and food he gained almost three pounds.
This is the second sea otter pup being treated at ASLC this year and neither is currently releasable, because they are too young, according to Chloe Rossman, media and communications manager.
“We can’t release any otter under six months because in the wild mom would normally be with them for at least six months,” she said.