ernieClearwater Marine Aquarium has been faced with an unusual start to 2011 as we have officially rescued our 13th otter pup. The first of the pups, a non-releasable boy, came in February 11th weighing just over 3lbs and  dehydrated and reluctant to nurse from the bottle. After a couple of nights he quickly learned to take from the bottle and has been thriving ever since. The pup, now named Ernie, will remain a resident of CMA and is going to be introduced to Oscar once he gets bigger.

After Ernie’s rescue, the calls started to flood in and at times CMA was receiving 2 pups at once. We knew with the rate that the pups were coming in we were going to have to lean on other facilities to help us out. The pups were rescued, brought to CMA for triage and then sent off to other rehab facilities such as C.R.O.W. (Clinic for Rehabilitation of Wildlife) at Sanibel Island. Unfortunately, two pups were too critical and sadly passed, but the other 10 may be candidates for release in the future.

North American River Otters generally breed during the winter and give birth in early spring. Pups are born in dens and are completely dependent on their mother as they are born hairless, toothless and blind. They are weaned at approximately 3 months old, but often stay with mom until the following spring when her next litter is born. During that time, mom teaches the pups various survival skills such as how to hunt and swim. We are not sure why so many pups have become orphaned this year but we do know that the area in which they live has become very over-developed leading to habitat destruction. Once their habitat is destroyed, an otter has to find a new home range which often forces them to cross roads to hunt for food and many end up getting hit by cars.

Check out “Making Waves”, CMA’s Speaker Series on April 21st. “All About Otters”

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