Baby otter calls Shedd home after 3K mile journey

CHICAGO The story of how a baby sea otter came to Chicago’s Shedd Aquarium from the coast of Alaska begins one cold October morning in the small town of Seldovia.

Members from the Alaska Sea Life Center (ASLC) found a small feather lying near the water, seemingly abandoned, along the coast of Seldovia Bay, an area of ​​Alaska about six hours’ drive and aboard the ferry to the south of the state’s highest state. populated city, Anchorage.

“When the pups are small, mom is always near or with the pup,” said Katie Roxbury, senior trainer at the Shedd Aquarium. “So, the fact that they didn’t see the girl raised some alarms.”

Now considered an endangered species, the sea otter population in Southwest Alaska has experienced a sharp decline in recent years, leading the ASLC team to bring him to a facility in hopes of caring for the little guy. back to health.

There are only a few centers in the United States that are able to provide the 24/7 care that a baby sea otter needs to make it through the first months of their life. That’s when the Shedd Aquarium jumped in to lead the effort to escort the puppy cross country, from Alaska, to a team of specialists waiting for the puppy in Indiana.

According to, the distance from Shedd Aquarium to Seldovia, Alaska is about 2,920 miles in a straight line, while if you want to drive from Shedd to Seldovia, Google Maps will tell you about 66 hours, 3,826 miles travel one way by car and ferry across international borders.

Fortunately for this baby sea otter though, he was able to get on the plane.

“I drove in the middle of the night to Indianapolis to pick him up,” said Lana Gonzalez, Manager of Penguins and Sea Otters at the Shedd Aquarium. “’And finally it was done [back to the Shedd Aquarium] around 5 o’clock in the morning.”

The sun was about to rise when a Shedd Aquarium-branded van rolled into the parking lot of their facilities with a little 8-pound bundle of joy.

The staff said it was like bringing home a new baby, with the team doing everything from preparing bottles full of baby sea otter food, to feeding him small sea otter massages.

“He’s getting seven feeds a day now,” said a Shedd staff member. “[We feed him] like a human child.”

Feeding a baby sea otter seven times a day might mean Shedd staff is filling him up, but according to staff, baby sea otters around his age usually eat about 25 % of their own body weight every day, making regular nutrition. a requirement.

“He’s so small and so soft,” Gonzalez said. “It’s amazing because they’re looking at you and you’re holding them, healing them and knowing that we didn’t take him that he didn’t have any other options in life.”

With the team shifting to cover his care around the clock, it will be at least another month of intensive care before Shedd’s newest addition is introduced to their five other sea rescues. otters.

Roxbury said staff designed a special enclosure just for the baby sea otter to help ease the sea otter’s transition back to normal life.

“We’ve turned it into a little nursery for him,” Roxbury said. “A little shallower so he can learn critical diving skills [and] how to eat solid foods.”

Visitors don’t get to see the countless hours spent behind the scenes caring for a small furry creature like a baby sea otter, but the team says it’s worth every sleepless night to give an abandoned puppy in the sea a second chance at life.

“He might just come here and be an ambassador for his species,” said a staff member. “Sometimes I have to stop myself and be like, ‘This is what I do for my job every day,’ that’s why it’s so amazing.”

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