Wild Sea Otters Go to Aquarium to Give Birth
Not just one, but two wild pregnant sea otters have chosen to give birth to their pups at the Monterey Bay Aquarium in California.
For the second time in just a few months, a wild sea otter has willingly traveled to the Monterey Bay Aquarium in order to give birth.
Both pregnant females journeyed to the aquarium's Great Tide Pool to have their pups, which by all accounts are doing well.
Marine mammal experts suspect that stormy seas prompted both moms to make the journey, given that the Great Tide Pool is sheltered and offers big rocks for resting.
There was a big rainstorm in the region in December, when the first wild sea otter mom swam to the aquarium. Yet another welcome storm during the California drought has been traveling through the area this week.
The entire wild sea otter birth was captured up close by the aquarium's "Periscope" camera:
The "sleeping fur ball," as aquarium staff members have referred to the latest pup, was still at the pool on Sunday, when hundreds of visitors gathered quietly inside the aquarium to watch it and its relieved-looking mother.
This has been a remarkable time for marine mammal viewing at the site. Even a gray whale swam nearby, flipping its tail up right in front of aquarium goers as it went to the back of a kelp forest.
Regarding the birth, the aquarium posted at its Facebook page: "Sea otters can give birth in water or on land. You'll notice that mom starts grooming her pup right away to help it stay warm and buoyant - a well-groomed sea otter pup is so buoyant it's practically unsinkable!"
The post continued, "Besides keeping the pup afloat, grooming also helps get the blood flowing and other internal systems revved up for a career of chomping on invertebrates and keeping near shore ecosystems, like the kelp forests in Monterey Bay, and the eel grass at Elkhorn Slough, healthy."
Sea otters are listed as endangered by the IUCN Red List of Threatened Species, so the births provide hope that the marine mammal's populations are on the rise.
A wild sea otter mom at the Monterey Bay Aquarium with her newborn pup.
This wild mother sea otter and her pup showed up in the Great Tide Pool at the Monterey Bay Aquarium on Wednesday, Jan. 22. The aquarium posted this and the following photos on its
, capturing the hearts of tens of thousands of fans.
Sea otters usually have only one offspring. Baby sea otters will stay with their mothers for six months or longer. Mama otter teaches her baby how to forage for food, groom, swim and more. Without her, baby otter is helpless. This mother snuggled her pup not unlike a human mother does, complete with pulling it closer to her from under the baby's arms.
The visiting wild baby otter floats in the calm waters of the tide pool. Sea otters eat about 40 different marine species, including sea urchins, crabs, clams and abalone. They have to eat about a quarter of their weight in order to fuel their swimming, diving and, of course, floating.
A crowd watches the sea otter and her baby floating. The photo generated wishful comments from those not lucky enough to be in the right place at the right time. "I wish I could have been there to see that!" said one Facebooker. Cool otter fact: Sea otters hold the record for the thickest fur in the animal kingdom: 800,000 to a million hairs per square inch. So much hair goes a long way toward insulating them from the cold waters they live in. But it also means they spend much of their time maintaining it.
Visits from mother and pup pairs aren't that common, said an aquarium press contact. "It happens occasionally (we have had other instances of mom/pups in the Great Tide Pool -- at least two other times in the past several years that I can recall), but not quite what I’d call frequently or often. Yesterday’s visit was definitely a treat!"
It's nearly impossible to see where mom ends and baby begins. The pup is small now, but he won't be forever. Sea otters are the heaviest members of the weasel family and the male California sea otters can grow to weigh 65 pounds; Northern sea otters can reach up to 100 pounds. Grow up big and strong, lil pup.
Be sure to also visit the Monterey Bay Aquarium's
, and watch a video of the mom and pup on the