Shedd Staffers Teach Orphaned Pup “How to Be an Otter”

The southern sea otter pup caregivers are calling "Pup 681" was found Sept. 20 near San Mateo, Calif.

A sea otter pup found abandoned on a California beach has a new, permanent home at Chicago's Shedd Aquarium.

The weeks-old mammal caregivers are calling "Pup 681" has been receiving around-the-clock care since arriving at the downtown aquarium on Oct. 28. She was found more than a month earlier near San Mateo, Calif., and received emergency but temporary care at the Montery Bay Aquarium.

Pup 681 weighed just two pounds and was barely a week old when she was found on Sept. 30 by someone walking along Coastways Beach. Experts think she had been separated from her mother for at least 16 hours when she was found, the aquarium said.

"Pup 681’s situation was urgent," Shedd Vice President of Animal Collections Tim Binder said in a statement.

She weighed 6 pounds and was 22.6 inches long when she came to Chicago and has had constant care from Shedd professionals who are "teaching the pup how to be an otter,” Binder said.

"While the process is lengthy, our hands-on experience and long history rehabilitating sea otters allows us to use our expertise to work on saving this pup’s life by providing her with a home and the care she needs," he said.

Animal care experts and veterinarians are teaching her to groom, forage and feed herself, and regulate her own body temperature by getting in and out of the water. Since arriving at the Shedd, Pup 681 has learned to take formula from a bottle, eat solid foods like shrimp and clams, and climb on towels to dry off after taking a dip, Binder said.

She is the second pup from the threatened southern sea otter population at the Shedd Aquarium. Staffers there are helped with wildlife rescue efforts and took in many orphaned pups following the 1989 Exxon Valdez disaster.

Annual surveys from the United States Geological Survey indicate the southern sea otter population index reached 2,944 in 2014 – a slight growth from 2,939 in 2013. 

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