VANCOUVER, B.C. (FOX 13) - A tiny sea otter pup is lucky to be alive - and under 24-hour care - at the Vancouver Aquarium Marine Mammal Rescue Centre.
He came there after concerned members of the public found him swimming alone in open water off northern Vancouver Island on Sunday.
The Vancouver Aquarium says the 2-4-week-old, yet-to-be-named pup requires constant care, just as he would from his mother. Staff and volunteers are spending shifts feeding, bathing and grooming the tiny fellow.
"Sea otters... spend about six months with mom, nursing, being groomed by her and learning to forage and be a sea otter, so this little guy is still a fully dependent pup," explained Lindsaye Akhurst, manager of the Marine Mammal Rescue Centre.
The aquarium says boaters found the sea otter pup and watched for some time to see if an adult otter was anywhere nearby, but there were none in sight.
The staff at the aquarium's rescue center said they do prefer for anyone who sees a distressed animal to report it first, before interfering. Also, touching or capturing wild marine mammals is illegal in Vancouver.
"Once they're removed from the wild it's impossible to determine if the mother is alive and if they could have been reunited, or if bringing him in was the appropriate action," Akhurst said.
The sea otter was once extinct from Canada but has successfully been reintroduced to British Columbia, especially off Vancouver Island. Population growth and range expansion enabled the Government of Canada to change the listing of the species from Threatened to Special Concern in 2009.
The Vancouver Aquarium Marine Mammal Rescue Centre is a hospital for sick, injured or orphaned marine mammals and is the only one of its kind in Canada. Its team rescues, rehabilitates, and releases more than 100 animals each year, including more than 170 in 2016.
For more information about the care of the rescued sea otter pup, visit support.ocean.org/rescuedotter.
For more information about the Vancouver Aquarium, a self-supporting, accredited institution, visit www.vanaqua.org/mmr.