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Orphaned Pup Learning How to be an Otter

Nov 05, 2014 12:19 PM EST

An orphaned pup, found alone and afraid on a California beach, is learning how to be an otter thanks in part to the Shedd Aquarium.

At just five weeks old and less than six pounds, the female sea otter arrived at the downtown aquarium Oct. 28 after being cared for at the Monterey Bay Aquarium for the first four weeks of her life. Officials are happy to report that the pup has been doing well since her arrival, and is receiving round-the-clock care.

Pup 681, as she's called, was only two pounds - "tiny" for a sea otter - and just over a week old when she was found crying and alone on Coastways Beach near San Mateo County, California. Experts believe she had been separated from her mother for 16 hours at the time.

"Pup 681's situation was urgent," Shedd Vice President of Animal Collections Tim Binder said in a statement. "As an organization dedicated to marine mammal care and conservation, we were perfectly positioned to ensure that this little pup had a home, providing the long-term care needed to survive."

According to the Chicago Sun Times, animal care experts and veterinarians are teaching Pup 681 to groom, forage and feed herself, and regulate her own body temperature by getting in and out of the water.

"Our animal care team is teaching the pup how to be an otter," Binder said. "While the process is lengthy, our hands-on experience and long history rehabilitating sea otters allows us to use our expertise to work on saving this pup's life by providing her with a home and the care she needs."

So far, Shedd has taught the young otter - the second to be rescued from the threatened sea otter population - how to take formula from a bottle and eat solid foods like shrimp and clams.

According to Defenders of Wildlife, sea otters used to number from several hundred thousand to more than a million, but the fur trade has caused their population to plummet to just over 106,000 worldwide today, with just under 3,000 in California.

[Credit: Shedd Aquarium]

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