SeaLife Center Rescues Sea Otter Pup
Stranding comes late in what's been a busy season
SEWARD - Just when Alaska SeaLife Center staff thought the stranding season was winding down, another orphan showed up on their doorstep.
“She came from Homer, Alaska. She was actually found on the street. There was a big storm and we think the waves washed her up near the street,” said Halley Werner, an animal care specialist.
The two-month-old sea otter pup is now getting around the clock care to make sure she stays healthy.
“This little girl doesn't have a mom anymore so we need to take her place and start grooming her and make sure she's dry and well-insulated at all times,” said Werner.
Since the center opened in 1998, the stranding program has helped hundreds of animals. While it’s not unusual to get a couple of orphaned otters, this summer was anything but ordinary.
It started with a two-day old baby beluga brought in from Bristol Bay, the first beluga calf to ever be rescued from the wild. The calf spend three weeks at the SeaLife Center but was too sick to be saved and died of an infection.
Then came the walruses, the first at the center in five years. Pakak and Mitik were rescued from the coast of Barrow and spend months being cared for 24-7 before heading to their new homes in Indianapolis and New York.
“That experience is a great one for us to have in-state because if there are ever animals that are injured or potentially oiled, we have the expertise in taking care of animals in compromised situations and that's really a great capacity for our state to have,” said Tara Riemer Jones, SeaLife Center president.
Like a lot of animals this summer, the otter pup requires continuous care, which means a lot of hands on deck to keep her happy.
“It takes a village. Everyone in the center in some way provided help with these animals to be able to care for them and get through the summer and through this long stranding season,” said Jones.
Like the walruses, the sea otter pup will not be able to be released back into the wild. They spend so much time around human caretakers, they would never be able to fend for themselves at sea.
Harbor seals are another story. Each year the center takes in about a dozen orphaned or injured seals and releases them around the state.
“We have a less nurturing role with seals and they learn to eat fish on their own, it's all instinctual. They adjust really well to socializing with other seals then being released into the wild,” said Werner.
“Spitz” was the last one of the summer and was let go in the waters near Homer on October 1.
Staffers thought they were in the clear when the walruses headed south, but the sea otter pup showed up just a week later. She’ll spend a couple weeks at the center until Fish & Wildlife can find a permanent home for her in the Lower 48.