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Conservation | Volunteering | Mammals

Thursday, April 28, 2011


Observations of a Mother Otter and Her Pup in Monterey Harbor

“Oh my gosh! It looks like Ollie!” That was my reaction when I first saw the little baby sea otter emerge from under the docks in Monterey Harbor during a spring break visit to the area. The little critter seemed to have no concern about me being so near as it explored the dinghies of the transient dock of the Monterey Fisherman’s Wharf.

From my recent experience helping to raise Ollie the orphan baby otter at the Aquarium of the Pacific I could appreciate the curiosity of the little critter as it pawed around the crevices around the pilings and floats. When it saw a yearling sea lion resting on a dock nearby it went over to investigate. The sea lion was a rehabilitated male as evidenced by the roto tag it had on it’s left front flipper (tag number 25865). It was cute to watch the two young marine mammals stare at each other in a curious sort of way. The sea lion had the same droopy golden lab expression on it’s face that Odin, the Aquarium’s own rehabilitated sea lion, has on his face when he discovers something new. The baby otter swam surprisingly close to the sea lion.

The little otter soon rejoined it’s mom who was foraging underneath the restaurant area of the wharf. It followed mom as she dove underwater. When it came up it had what first looked like some sort of tunicate. “That’s a hot dog!” my wife Pam said excitedly, “Baby otters don’t eat hot dogs!” The pup had found a whole hot dog that someone had dropped off the wharf. Well mother sea otter must have agreed with my wife as she came up to the baby otter, grabbed the hot dog and exchanged a more healthy crab for the man-made “tunicate” that the little furball was mouthing. She then dropped the hot dog back into the water.

As I said in the beginning, this little otter pup reminded me of Ollie. Turns out that this little critter may have had a similar story to my little furball. Like Ollie, she may have been an orphan! Talking with some sea otter field researchers the next day they told me of an otter mother and pup that were living in the harbor area (one of two mom/pup pairs making Monterey Harbor their home). The pup was actually an orphan who had somehow lost her mother. The adult female was a mother whose pup had died and she took on the motherless baby as her own. This orphan baby otter was lucky enough to be adopted and cared for by this female otherwise it would have never had made it on it’s own. The otters that we saw under the wharf that day were possibly these same animals! Such a heartwarming story!

Baby Otters Don't Eat Hot Dogs! A baby sea otter holds a hot dog that it found underneath the Monterey Fisherman's Wharf.  | Pam Ryono
Baby Otters Eat Crab! The baby otter with the crab that mama otter exchanged for the hot dog it had.  | Hugh Ryono
A mother sea otter and her pup.  | Hugh Ryono

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