Brace yourselves for a ridiculous amount of cuteness.
Shedd Aquarium’s newest arrival is a rescued sea otter pup, and the first photos and video of the little fella are beyond adorable.
(Courtesy of Shedd Aquarium)
Shedd staff flew to Seward, Alaska, in late November to pick up the pup from a partner organization, Alaska SeaLife Center (ASLC), which admitted the otter to its Wildlife Response Program at the end of October.
The otter, temporarily named Pup EL2306, was found stranded, vocalizing in distress with no mother in sight and an adult male sea otter approaching aggressively, according to a statement from Shedd.
ASLC treated the male northern sea otter pup for dehydration, malnourishment and wounds. The little fella is now estimated to be 8 weeks old and weighs approximately 10 pounds.
For the first year of their lives, sea otter pups rely on their mothers for food, care and to learn where to forage and how to hunt after they are weaned. Orphaned pups, especially those stranded and rescued at a very young age, are typically designated as “non-releasable” by the federal government.
Shedd is one of only 11 institutions in North America with the resources to take in non-releasable sea otters. When ASLC called looking for a home for EL2306, Shedd answered.
“We are thankful to partners like Shedd Aquarium that can support this effort for otters that need a relocation and cannot survive in the wild, and we’re excited to continue to follow his journey at his new home,” said Jane Belovarac, Wildlife Response curator at ASLC.
The pup is currently hanging out in Shedd’s nursery, where he’s receiving around-the-clock pampering, including feedings every couple of hours — formula from a bottle and small bits of clam — and lots of snuggles with soft towels (which is how staff grooms EL2306).
He’ll stay behind the scenes for a few months, Shedd said, as he reaches development milestones and bonds with animal care staff and other otters. All five of the other otters at Shedd — Luna, Cooper, Watson, Suri and Willow — are rescues like EL2306, given a second chance at life.
“At Shedd, we are dedicated to the care of animals here, there and everywhere; we stand ready to assist in times of need,” said Peggy Sloan, chief animal conservation officer at Shedd Aquarium. “With this newest addition to our rescued population of sea otters, we’re committed to his long-term care and continuing to create connections for Chicagoans to this important keystone species.”
The sea otter species as a whole is listed as “endangered” on the IUCN Red List, while the northern sea otter is listed as “threatened.” Main threats in the wild include predation, overharvest, fishery interactions, disease and oil spills.
Shedd will continue to provide updates on the new pup’s development, including when guests can expect to see him in the sea otter habitat and any plans to give him a snazzier name.
Some more photos to brighten your day: