Vancouver, B.C. – An orphaned male sea otter pup — estimated to be just 10 days old — is now in intensive care at the Ocean Wise Marine Mammal Rescue Centre. The pup was discovered near Kyuquot after a concerned member of the public heard it vocalizing overnight July 2 and discovered a deceased adult sea otter in the area, presumed to be its mother, the following morning. Staff have named him Joey as a tribute to a long-time supporter who helped re-open the Rescue Centre this season. Rescue centre staff are now stabilizing the pup at the hospital under round the clock care. Staff and volunteers are rotating shifts feeding, bathing and grooming the newborn pup.
“It was a really incredible effort to get him to the Rescue Centre safely this morning. He wouldn’t have been able to survive much longer on his own so we’re really grateful that we were able to get him treatment quickly,” said Lindsaye Akhurst, manager of the Marine Mammal Rescue Centre.
Rescue centre staff coordinated the rescue effort alongside Fisheries and Oceans Canada early Friday morning to mobilize a community effort to transport the pup to the Vancouver-based rescue facility. The pup was flown by Air Nootka seaplane from the Kyuquot Village on to YVR south terminal and brought into the hospital shortly after.
“Sea otter pups are incredibly dependent on their mothers for the first 6 months of their lives. This pup would normally learn to groom, swim and feed from its mother, so he has quite a long journey ahead of him. He’s definitely hypoglycemic and hypothermic, but he’s starting to feed well so that’s a good sign,” said Dr. Martin Haulena, head veterinarian at the Marine Mammal Rescue Centre.
In 2017, The Marine Mammal Rescue Centre team successfully rehabilitated Hardy, a rescued sea otter pup after he was discovered by boaters alone in the water. Hardy, deemed non-releasable by Fisheries and Oceans Canada, now resides with 5 other rescued sea otters at the Vancouver Aquarium.
Once extinct from Canada, the sea otter (Enhydra lutris)has successfully been reintroduced to British Columbia, and mainly lives off Vancouver Island. Subsequent population growth and range expansion enabled the Government of Canada to change the listing of the species from Threatened to Special Concern in 2009, as recommended by COSEWIC. Major causes of death among sea otters are lack of food, predators and environmental contamination.
The Ocean Wise Marine Mammal Rescue Centre — a hospital for sick, injured or orphaned marine mammals — is the only one of its kind in Canada. Under authorization from DFO, the team rescues, rehabilitates and releases more than 120 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.
The Ocean Wise Marine Mammal Rescue Centre was able to re-open its doors last month thanks to an outpouring of support and donations from the community while facing closure. The rescue centre is supported by revenue generated at the not-for-profit Vancouver Aquarium and was at risk of remaining closed this season due to the Aquarium’s 3-month closure and ongoing financial hardships.
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 for the care of this sea otter pup, please visit ocean.org/otter.
If you see marine wildlife in distress, please keep people and pets away and call the Ocean Wise Marine Mammal Rescue Centre hotline at 604.258.SEAL (7325) or Fisheries and Oceans Canada incident reporting hotline at 1-800-465-4336.