The search for a lost sea otter pup’s mother had a happy ending after the pair were reunited Thursday in Morro Bay.
The female sea otter pup was found in the bay after The Marine Mammal Center and other agencies received multiple calls from bystanders reporting the distressed animal, said Mike Harris, senior environmental scientist for the California Department of Fish and Wildlife.
The pup, which was less than a day old, likely got separated from her mother by the current and strong winds while her mother was foraging, Harris said.
He added that it’s not an uncommon occurrence, and that strong winds can block the calls that the animals would otherwise use to find each other.
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There was no doubt in my mind that this was Mom.
Mike Harris, senior environmental scientist for the California Department of Fish and Wildlife
The Marine Mammal Center, Morro Bay Harbor Department and Harris helped to rescue the pup, and began working their way up the bay in a boat, looking for any otters reacting to the smell or sound of the pup.
He said they passed about six female otters, some of which showed interest, but not what was to be expected for a female that has a bond with a pup. They kept moving until more than a kilometer away from where they found the pup, they found a female otter that immediately responded to the pup’s calls by with a big, vocal, high-pitched response.
“There was no doubt in my mind that this was Mom,” Harris said.
The otter made a few passes getting close to the boat, but Harris said he thought the size of the boat and the noise from the engine were keeping her from getting too close.
Harris said he made the decision to gently toss the otter pup to the mother as he knew she was keyed in and paying attention. The mother immediately dove underwater and made a couple of passes before surfacing at the pup, pulling the pup onto her belly and swimming away.
“It was a very good ending to that story,” Harris said. “More often we don’t find the female or we can’t make that connection.”
Harris advised that if people find a sea otter or animal in distress, to keep dogs and people away from the animal, avoid touching the animal and call the Marine Mammal Center at 805-771-8300.