Orcas Killed Its Mother. Rescuers Were on Hand

Newborn otter rescued from the waters off Homer, Alaska
By Kate Seamons,  Newser Staff
Posted Sep 20, 2023 4:39 PM CDT

An otter pup may have some well-placed wildlife response members to thank for its survival. CBS News reports Alaska SeaLife Center (ASLC) lab tech Natalie Hunter was fishing with friends who also have wildlife response backgrounds on Sept. 9 when they saw a "commotion" in the water near Homer: Two orcas went after a floating otter, which didn't attempt to escape. That reaction, plus the "characteristic young otter calls" they heard, clued them in on the fact the orcas were going after a mother otter holding a pup. A press release from ASLC says the group then saw "both the mother otter and pup burst out of the water after an impressive tail slap from one of the orcas." They were separated, and the orcas set their sights on the mother.

The attacks persisted, and the mother otter eventually failed to resurface. The orcas departed, but the group continued to hear the pup's cries. After letting some time lapse, they called an ASLC hotline and asked how to proceed. It secured the OK from US Fish and Wildlife Services to retrieve the pup from the water. "Her cries were gurgly, and when we got her out of the water, she was soaked," Hunter says. "Her coat wasn't repelling water and keeping her buoyant like it should have been."

Upon arrival at the ASLC, staff determined the pup was tired and hungry but otherwise OK—and, remarkably, just a day or even hours old, as evidenced by its fresh umbilical cord. "Very rarely do we know how a wildlife response patient got to the location and the condition it was found in," says Jane Belovarac, ASLC Wildlife Response Curator. "For most reported cases of an abandoned seal or otter pup, we have the reporter watch for a length of time to see if the mother returns. In this rare case, we know exactly what happened to this newborn pup." (More otter stories.)

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