A malnourished baby otter, found by kayakers stranded on the beach at the Morro Bay sandspit last week, is recuperating in Monterey.
The female otter was discovered alone Oct. 19 and is believed to have been abandoned by her mother, said Becka Kelly, a Morro Bay Harbor Department patrol supervisor. Kayakers reported their find to the harbor department, and the Monterey Bay Aquarium is now treating the pup.
Kelly said that it’s unusual for an infant otter to be beached on the shore, and the department initially tried to locate the mother in the nearby waters.
“We really don’t know how the otter got separated,” Kelly said. “We drove it around (by boat) to let it call out to its mom, but there was no response.”
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Everybody’s heart bleeds for a baby animal. I think this one really tugged on people’s heartstrings.
Becka Kelly, Morro Bay Harbor Department
Aquarium officials say they believe the animal was only a day old when it was found. It weighed only 2.62 pounds, which is extremely small for a pup, said Angela Hains, an aquarium spokeswoman.
“She may have never had the benefit of having mom’s milk, so her lack of immune development means that she will require intensive care over the next several weeks,” Hains said. “Sea otter caregivers are guardedly optimistic about her prognosis.”
The aquarium’s rescue Sea Otter Program treats distressed otters from around the state. The facility expects to care for the Morro Bay animal for the next seven to eight months, the normal dependency period for sea otters in the wild, before her anticipated release in the Elkhorn Slough at Moss Landing.
Morro Bay city officials posted photos of the otter, and the story has been widely shared on social media, attracting more than 10,000 views on Facebook.
“Everybody’s heart bleeds for a baby animal,” Kelly said. “I think this one really tugged on people’s heartstrings.”
2.62 pounds weight of baby otter when found
Based on the advice of the Monterey Bay Aquarium, Morro Bay officials are alerting the public not to wrap any distressed otters in towels, which some of the initial rescue photos showed.
“Babies have very, very thick fur, and it can actually be dangerous to wrap or swaddle a sea otter pup,” said Deputy City Manager Sam Taylor.
Sea otters have the “densest fur in the animal kingdom” and they’re prone to overheating, Hains said.
The city advises anyone who finds a neglected otter to contact the Marine Mammal Center or Harbor Department.
Even if a baby appears abandoned, sometimes the mother is out foraging and will return, so it’s best to contact the Marine Mammal Center and the Harbor Department for assistance before ever attempting to save a pup, Taylor said.
Who to call
If you find a marine animal in distress, call these numbers:
Marine Mammal Center in Morro Bay, 805-771-8300
Morro Bay Harbor Department, 805-772-6259