An abandoned sea otter has safely arrived in his new home at the Oregon Zoo in Portland. The baby sea otter made headlines in October when he was found on a beach at Morro Bay Harbor on California’s Central Coast. He was saved by Monterey Bay Aquarium’s southern sea otter rescue program after being stranded on the shore. Abandoned by his mother, the little sea otter was estimated to be only about two weeks old when he washed up on the beach. His caregivers were unable to release him back into the wild due to his young age.
Last week, zoo employees traveled to California and brought the two-month-old otter back to his new home at the Oregon Zoo. He currently goes by the moniker of 805, his number at Monterey Bay Aquarium. According to zoo officials, he now weighs 14 pounds and has begun to clean himself. He eats a seafood diet, preferring tasty tidbits of shrimp. However, 805 is not is not currently being exhibited and is not available for visitors to see. For now, he is being cared for in a separate nursery at the zoo. However, the zoo plans to release him into their Steller Cove marine exhibit in January; he will be one of three otters living in Steller Cove.
In 2014, Juno, the zoo’s 3-year-old-otter, was also rescued in California by Monterey Bay Aquarium. Like 805, Juno was in need of adult companionship so she was sent to the Oregon Zoo to live with an otter community. She is one of 39 southern sea otters living in North American zoos and aquariums that have been stranded on shore and deemed too young or too inexperienced to be released back into the wild.
Sea otters like Juno and 805 were once common on the West Coast until they were hunted almost to extinction by fur hunters in the 18th and 19th centuries. Despite being protected by the Endangered Species Act since 1974, sea otter numbers have not recovered. Oil pollution, parasites and commercial fishing nets continue to take their toll on sea otter communities. Today, most sea otters live on the California coast, along Alaskan shores, or in Russia. Small populations can also be found in Washington and British Columbia, but no sea otters live in the wild in Oregon.