Wild sea otters are often spotted in the waters around the Monterey Bay Aquarium in California, but officials got a surprise on Sunday, December 20. They announced the sighting of an adorable new otter pup. The pup was seen snuggled up next to her mom, who didn’t mind showing the little pup off.
Aquarium officials say the pup’s birth was unexpected, although the otter mom had gotten her fair share of attention in the days leading up to the pup’s birth.
“For the last several days, a wild female sea otter had been using the protected basin of our Great Tide Pool to rest from the winter storms. Last night, just as the Aquarium closed, she was spotted once again slinking into the pool for some shut-eye. It’s rare for a healthy sea otter to visit the pool so frequently — we started to wonder if she was doing all right,” the Monterey Bay Aquarium wrote online.
Around 8:30 a.m., Aquarium staff witnessed a brand new pup resting on her belly, umbilical cord still attached, being furiously groomed by a proud momma.
Visitors to the aquarium spent the morning watching as the mommy otter groomed her pup, puffing up its fur to make the otter pup more buoyant in the water.
Sea otters were close to extinction in California in 1938 because of fur trapping, which reduced their numbers to around 50, but thanks to conservation measures, their population has come back up to over 2,000 and each new birth is a cause for celebration.
Other otter facts:
- Sea Otters don’t have thick layers of blubber to keep them warm, like some other marine animals.
- Sea Otters depend on their extra thick fur to keep them toasty warm in the chilly ocean and also to keep them buoyant.
- Sea Otters have the world’s most dense fur.
- Sea Otters have two layers of fur and boasts more than a million hairs per square inch. To put that in perspective, humans generally have less than 100,000 hairs on their entire head.
- The reason that otters constantly groom is because it keeps their fur saturated with water-repelling natural oils from their skin.
- Grooming also fluffs up the otters coat with insulating air bubbles, helping them stay warm and afloat.
- Sea Otters have been threatened by extinction for centuries, but their population is now growing slowly in California.
- Sea Otters were threatened because fur hunters hunted them in the 1700s and 1800s.
- In 1938, there were only 50 surviving otters off of California’s Big Sur coast.
- Sea Otters were listed on the Endangered Species list in 1977.
- Sea Otters used to span from Baja California to the Pacific Northwest, and some even extended as far as Russia and Japan. Today, they only range from south of California’s Half Moon to just past Point Conception in the south.
- Conservationists are trying to extend the sea otter’s range because the region will likely run out of food for them in the future.
- Oil spills and sharks are also a threat for Sea Otters too.
- Oil spills are a constant threat. Only one spill from a single oil tanker near San Francisco or off the Central Coast could wipe out all of California’s sea otters.
- It’s important to keep the Sea Otter’s healthy because they are vital to Monterey Bay’s aquatic ecosystem.
- Sea Otters help boost kelp forests by eating sea urchins and other creatures that graze on giant kelp.
- Sea Otters keep toxic algal blooms in check by eating crab. Crab eat the sea slugs that suck harmful algae off of sea grasses. By keeping the crab population low, sea slug populations thrive, keeping sea grasses clean.
- The birth of new Sea Otter pups give conservationists hope for more sea otters in the future.
[Photo via: Facebook/ Monterey Bay Aquarium]