Newborn sea otter pup recovering at Alaska SeaLife Center after orca attack kills mother

A baby otter is recovering at the Alaska SeaLife Center after its mother was killed by orca whales. (Source: KTUU)
Published: Sep. 20, 2023 at 3:53 PM AKDT|Updated: Sep. 20, 2023 at 4:17 PM AKDT
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ANCHORAGE, Alaska (KTUU) - A newborn sea otter is being cared for at the Alaska SeaLife Center after a dramatic rescue from waters near Homer on Sept. 9. The otter was clinging to its mother when a pair of orcas attacked them — killing the mother but sparing the baby.

The attack was witnessed by a group on a nearby fishing boat that coincidently included Alaska Sealife Lab Technician Natalie Hunter. After getting permission from the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, Hunter was able to successfully rescue the baby otter, bringing it first to the boat and then to the SeaLife Center in Seward.

Workers say the female otter — likely just a day old when she was rescued — wouldn’t have survived on her long on her own.

“After basically getting skipped across the water by that orca, her coat had taken on so much water that it lost all buoyancy,” lab technician Hanna Beane said, who is on the team caring now for the otter. “So she very likely would have drowned within that hour or so — either drowned or an eagle could have come to pick her up because she’s a nice little easy meal for a bird. So there’s no chance, she would have had zero chance of survival.”

Beane said the otter is thriving at the SeaLife Center. She has a hearty appetite and appears to be in good health. Even so, she said the baby otter can’t be released back into the wild.

“We are otter mom now. There is no way that we could teach her the skills that she would need to survive out in the wild, so she will be placed in human care for the rest of her life,” Beane said.

The SeaLife Center is looking for a facility that will accept the otter permanently. Until then, Beane said, she’s being well cared for and lucky to be alive.