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Oregon Coast Aquarium Gets Fuzzy, Adorable New Sea Otter Pup

Published 07/29/21 at 6:40 PM PDT
By Oregon Coast Beach Connection staff

Oregon Coast Aquarium Gets Adorable New Sea Otter Pup

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(Newport, Oregon) – A new addition to Newport's Oregon Coast Aquarium will have many squealing with cuteness aggression: a baby sea otter pup named Earle.

The tiny, adorable beastie was rescued from a beach in California back in May, where it was found cold and lethargic, alone and without its mother. At just three weeks old at the time, he only weighed 6.5 pounds and would have been unable to survive on his own.

From there, tiny, fuzzy Earle was taken to Monterey Bay Aquarium for further treatment and rehabilitation. Normally, facilities use surrogate mothers to raise sea otters in order to eventually release them back into the wild. However, at that time, none were available to the aquarium, so U.S. Fish and Wildlife Services deemed the baby otter unfit to be let loose. Without that proper rearing, he would not have survived.

Now, he's a playful, energetic and entertaining member of the Oregon Coast Aquarium family.

The Oregon Coast Aquarium is one of only 15 organizations in the U.S. authorized to accept rescued sea otters, and the goal is to always have a space available for those that cannot be released. Once it was determined that the Aquarium would be Earle's new home, a plan quickly unfolded to prepare for his arrival.

To expedite Earle's transport, a flight was coordinated with the non-profit organization Turtles Fly Too. The network's mission is to coordinate the use of general aviation to transport endangered species, critical response teams, and to educate the community on marine life conservation.

Turtles Fly Too coordinated with each of the organizations and USFWS to facilitate Earle's transport from Monterey Bay Aquarium to the Oregon Coast Aquarium, securing pilot and aircraft, transport permits, and departure and arrival logistics at airports. “Turtle Flier” Peter T. Lewis, who hails from Santa Barbara, California, contributed his time, talent, and Daher TBM 700 aircraft to fly Earle to his new home.

“We specialize in transporting endangered species, yet Sea Otter 918 [Earle] challenged us with lower temperature needs, medical team support during flight, and securing a high-speed aircraft to reduce the risk for our special passenger,” said Leslie Weinstein, President of Turtles Fly Too.

On July 22, Earle took flight. The Aquarium's Curator of Marine Mammals Brittany Blades, along with Willamette Veterinary Hospital's Dr. Dan Lewer, assisted in the transport. They closely monitored Earle's health, and took measures to make the flight as comfortable as possible for the pup.

The impact of Earle's journey is widespread; not only will he act as an ambassador in teaching guests about his wild counterparts, but the collaborative efforts of those involved will increase the capacity to rescue and rehabilitate other pups.

“The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service appreciates the team at Monterey Bay Aquarium for their diligent work to save and care for this young sea otter pup, while securing a permanent home for him at Oregon Coast Aquarium. We also thank Turtles Fly Too for stepping up to provide safe transport of the pup from California to Oregon. This transport is making room for the next stranded pup that comes in to Monterey Bay Aquarium, and potentially freeing personnel to care for a pup that has a chance to be released. Though non-releasable, this pup will help make people aware of the challenges that face Oregon Coast Aquarium is Otterly Delighted to Welcome Sea Otter Pup southern sea otters in the wild,” said Lilian Carswell, Southern Sea Otter Recovery and Marine Mammal Conservation Coordinator of the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service.

Upon landing, Earle was greeted by Aquarium staff. He was then quickly transported to his new home, where he was aptly named after Sylvia Earle, an oceanographer, scuba diver, and research scientist dedicated to conservation.

Earle is currently located behind-the-scenes, where he is settling in and learning typical sea otter behavior. Aquarium mammalogists will continue to monitor Earle to ensure he is acclimating well, and will soon introduce him to the other members of the sea otter raft.

“We are so excited to welcome Earle to the Aquarium,” said Blades. “His survival story really speaks to the amazing things that happen when people come together to support wildlife. Earle will act as an ambassador for his species, connecting guests with ocean life and inspiring conservation. That connection is crucial to the protection and preservation of sea otters and other endangered species.”

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