CHICAGO — Two nine-month-old southern sea otters are settling into their new home at Chicago’s Shedd Aquarium where they will be part of a new conservation effort.
Temporarily named Otter 926 and Otter 929, more permanent names are forthcoming, the two female juveniles arrived in the city on Wednesday from partner institution Aquarium of the Pacific.
According to a release from the Shedd, 926 was found on January 27 stranded at Asilomar Beach at 4 weeks old while 929 was found on March 2 at Carmel Beach State Park at 6 weeks old. In both rescues a search was conducted to find a mother otter without success.
After months of critical care in California, the pair made the long journey to Chicago where they are now acclimating in a behind-the-scenes environment, as seen in the video above. Soon the Shedd’s rehabilitation team will begin training the young female otters to serve as surrogate mothers in the future. Once mature enough, trainers aim to transfer the two to another institution where they can teach orphaned sea otter pups the necessary skills to be released into the wild.
926 and 929 will eventually join Luna, Cooper and Watson in the publicly viewable sea otter habitat. All three are rescues and were given a second chance at life thanks to the aquarium’s conservation efforts.
About Sea Otters
The smallest marine mammal species, sea otters are members of the weasel or mustelid family. Adult females can weigh between 35 and 60 pounds; males reach up to 90 pounds. Instead of blubber to keep them warm, they have very thick hair that consists of two layers: an undercoat and longer guard hairs. The otter’s fur is important to their survival, so they spend up to four hours a day grooming. If they do not keep their coat immaculate, they risk getting cold and dying of hypothermia.
Pups stay with their mothers until they are up to eight months old. Otters do not mate for life but form a bond that lasts for three or four days. After mating, the male leaves the female and is not involved in raising the pup. Sea otters must eat at least 25 percent of their body weight each day to maintain a high metabolic rate, which keeps their internal body temperature at 100 degrees. They eat bottom-dwelling nearshore animals, such as abalone, clams, sea urchins, crabs and octopus. Sea otters have the thickest fur in the animal kingdom, with nearly 1 million hairs per square inch.