Three young sea otters, all found stranded on California beaches, can now be seen feeding, frolicking and generally looking furry and cute at the Aquarium of the Pacific.
The otter pups, named Elle, Bee and Cee (for Long Beach’s nickname, LBC), are all less than a year old (two are around 5 months old) and were deemed unable to be released by federal wildlife authorities, said Megan Smylie, the aquarium’s sea otter program manager.
The aquarium announced on Thursday, which is World Ocean Day, that the pups had arrived and can be seen by visitors in the otter habitat.
Southern sea otters like the three youngsters in Long Beach are considered a threatened species and only live along California’s Central Coast, where their population is about 3,000, Smylie said.
Young otters may become stranded after being separated from their mothers by extreme weather, or becoming orphaned due to boat strikes, net entanglement, pollution or predators such as sharks. Smylie said the moms take care of feeding and grooming their babies, so their absence can quickly result in dehydration and other problems for the young.
When a stranded pup is found, experts will evaluate whether it can be reunited with its mother or be paired with a surrogate mom through a program at the Monterey Bay Aquarium. If that can’t be done, young otters are placed out at facilities such as the Aquarium of the Pacific where they can be with other otters—and that’s important, Smylie said, because they’re very social animals.
Elle, Bee and Cee join the aquarium’s three resident otters, two adult females and a juvenile male, Smylie said. Because the species is so inquisitive and playful, “they are one of our most popular animals,” she said. “They’re just naturally charismatic.”
Ultimately, the goal is to prepare as many otters as possible to be sent back into the wild, where they help keep the marine ecosystem in balance by eating sea urchins—which could otherwise decimate kelp forests.
“Anything that we can do to support the wild population is the best thing that we can do for our local ecosystems,” Smylie said.
Learn more about the Aquarium of the Pacific’s sea otters here.