Hardy, the male sea otter pup rescued in June from waters near northern Vancouver Island, has now moved into the nursery at the Vancouver Aquarium, an Ocean Wise initiative, to continue receiving 24-hour care from the sea otter experts on site. The fuzzy-faced pup was estimated to be two to four weeks old when he was admitted to the Vancouver Aquarium Marine Mammal Rescue Centre, presented by Port Metro Vancouver, on June 25 after being stranded from his mother. Over the past five weeks, Hardy has gained weight, grown stronger and more active, and, with help from staff and volunteers, has recently started grooming, exploring underwater, and learning to dive.
“Hardy has been doing really well; he’s hitting all of his developmental milestones and thriving,” said Kristi Heffron, senior marine mammal trainer at Vancouver Aquarium. “He’ll continue to receive 24-hour care here at the Aquarium as he transitions to eating solid foods and learns how to groom himself independently, swim in deeper water, and interact with the other otters.”
Newborn sea otters are helpless and completely reliant on their mother who will carry her pup on her tummy for weeks so she can groom and feed it, and teach it to swim, dive, and forage for food. The pup will usually stay with its mother for about six months before it has the skills to survive on its own. When Hardy arrived at the Rescue Centre he was too young to have learned these essential skills and would not survive in the wild on his own. As such, Fisheries and Oceans Canada (DFO) has deemed him non-releasable.
Since the 1980s, the Aquarium and its Marine Mammal Rescue Centre have supported sea otter rehabilitation and provided a home for non-releasable animals. Heffron started rehabilitating sea otter pups in 2007, continuing this work when she joined the Aquarium team in 2009. More recently, she’s taken the lead in the care of Katmai, rescued on the Homer Spit in Alaska in October 2012, Rialto, rescued off the coast of Washington in August 2016, and now Hardy.
“We’re excited to introduce Hardy to otters Rialto, Mak, Kunik, Katmai, and Tanu, as well as to our visitors in time. But right now, we’re focused on helping him settle into his new home,” said Heffron. Although Aquarium visitors cannot yet see him firsthand, a live-feed from the nursery will be broadcast to a monitor at the sea otter viewing area, and online at www.vanaqua.org/babyottercam. Visitors can also follow Hardy’s progress on Vancouver Aquarium’s Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram profiles.
The Vancouver Aquarium is a self-supporting, accredited institution and does not receive ongoing funds to provide around-the-clock care for its rescued and rehabilitated animals. To make a contribution to Hardy’s care, please visit www.support.ocean.org/rescuedotter.
The Vancouver Aquarium Marine Mammal Rescue Centre is the only one of its kind in Canada. Under authorization from DFO, the team rescues, rehabilitates and releases more than 150 animals each year; for every patient, the goal is to treat, rehabilitate and return it to the wild as soon as possible. The veterinary team provides medical treatment to harbour seals, sea otters, sea lions, sea turtles, elephant seals, whales, dolphins, and porpoises. This year’s rescue season is proving to be a busy one already. As well as Hardy, the Rescue Centre has provided assistance and care to a California sea lion, a Steller sea lion pup, and 127 harbour seals. If you see a stranded marine mammal, do not approach it and keep pets away. Call the Rescue Centre at 604.258.SEAL (7325) for immediate assistance.
The Vancouver Aquarium Marine Mammal Rescue Centre, presented by Port Metro Vancouver, is a hospital for sick, injured or orphaned marine mammals. The Rescue Centre rescues stranded marine mammals and rehabilitates them for release back into their natural habitat. Donate to the Rescue Centre at www.vanaqua.org/mmr.