They may be cute, but it’s really not easy being a sea otter these days. Not only were the once ubiquitous creatures nearly hunted to extinction, sea otters remain very susceptible pollution, particularly the oil spills that to sully their natural habitat in the coastal waters off Alaska, California, Canada, and Washington state.
Nowadays, sea otters are considered “threatened” under the Endangered Species Act and the Marine Mammal Protection Acts. But neither of these measures, no matter how well-meaning, offered much help to Joey, an orphaned sea otter pup found frantically crying for his dead mother when he was just 10 days old.
According to the Canadian Broadcasting Corporation, the newborn otter was discovered by a concerned local in Kyoquot, British Colombia, a coastal village on Canada’s Vancouver Island. The tiny otter was quickly transported to the Marine Mammal Rescue Centre, an ocean wildlife rescue organization based in Vancouver, B.C. The next morning, rescuers discovered a deceased female adult sea otter in the same area where the orphaned pup had been found. Rescuers believe the grown otter was probably the baby’s dead mother.
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“Sea otter pups are incredibly dependent on their mothers for the first six months of their lives,” the rescue center’s lead vet, Dr. Martin Haulena, told the CBC. Being orphaned presented a range of complications, in addition to the tragedy of losing his mother at such a young age. Sea otters teach their pups learn how to fish, swim, and even clean their fur coats, which require constant grooming. It wasn’t clear who would teach this orphaned pup, whom rescuers called Joey, how to be a sea otter.
Of course, the most immediate task would be nursing the orphaned otter back to health. “He’s definitely hypoglycemic and hypothermic,” Dr. Haulena said, “but he’s starting to feed well so that’s a good sign.”
Staff began working in shifts to provide the orphaned pup with round-the-clock bathing, grooming, and bottle feeding, and they even set up a live camera for the public to follow Joey’s progress. Unfortunately, caring for a baby sea otter (or sea otter of any age, really) is also a very expensive endeavor. Sea otters have an extremely high metabolism, and although he’s just a baby, Joey already requires 12 bottles a day.
This predicament inspired the Marine Mammal Rescue Centre to put Joey up for a symbolic “adoption,” which will help rescuers raise money to continue their vital work. Your donation of at least $35 will help MMRC continue to provide the orphaned pup with life-saving care, while you get an ‘adoption’ certificate, social media badge, end-of-the-year rescue video, and the satisfaction of knowing you helped save an animal’s life. (Donations are also tax-deductible if you live in Canada).
Regardless, rescuers are grateful for everyone who has helped get Joey this far, including the pilots who evacuated Joey by sea plane, the center’s tireless staff, and of course, the Good Samaritan who heard the frightened pup crying out for help in the first place. “It was really an incredible effort to get him to the Rescue Centre safely,” said MMRC manager Lindsaye Akhurst. “He wouldn’t have been able to survive much longer on his own.”