Word must be getting out among the wild sea otters of central California that a tide pool outside the Monterey Bay Aquarium is a comfortable — if very public — birthing center.
For the second time in three months, a pregnant otter showed up at the aquarium’s Great Tide Pool, this time on Saturday morning. According to the aquarium, she acted something like a laboring mother-to-be in a maternity ward — napping, grooming, pacing. After a few hours, she pulled up onto a rock, rolled around a bit and then reached her paws down to pull a sizable pup out of her, uh, nether regions. Visitors, the aquarium reported on Instagram, watched in “respectful quiet,” then “gasped (quietly).”
You can watch the otter delivery — complete with an easy listening soundtrack similar to the tunes used on TLC’s “A Baby Story” — on the aquarium’s video at the top of this post. The aquarium warns that “the miracle of life is graphic,” but it’s not that shocking. Within seconds, mama otter is licking the slimy newborn into a recognizable ball of fur, an act that renders it not only stunningly cute but also ultra-buoyant.
So, this happened again today… It’s not every day that you get to see a sea otter pup come into the world—yet for the second time in four months, a wild sea otter mother chose the sheltered waters of the Aquarium’s open-to-the-sea Great Tidepool to give birth during a #MontereyBay storm. First observed early this morning by attentive staff and volunteers, it quickly became clear that this female was very pregnant and ready to pup. Visitors and staff alike watched in respectful quiet while she napped and groomed and paced about the tidepool. After several hours, she hauled out cautiously onto a rock and, moments later, pulled a brand new pup to her as the crowd gasped (quietly). For this author, it was a surreal moment that still hasn’t registered. When I was five years old, I saw sea otters at the Aquarium and wanted to be a marine biologist and work here. I volunteered for four years with the Aquarium’s rescued otters, and to get to see one born—a sure sign of their incredible recovery from near extinction at the hands of fur traders last century to a stable population of 3000 in Central California—was a truly and otterly amazing sight. The Aquarium is proud to see the fruits of decades of legislative and heartfelt efforts to protect this important and threatened species that calls our local ocean home. This mom and pair are not part of our Sea Otter Program, so they may return to the wild kelp forest at any time. But for those of us who got to see this incredible sight, we will always remember how the warm and fuzzy gave us the warm and fuzzies too. #montereybayaquarium #seaotterbirth #ConservationWorks #secondtimewasalsoacharm #howoldareyou? #whendoestimestart? #cuzimthatmany #wejustwonthepupularvote
A photo posted by Monterey Bay Aquarium (@montereybayaquarium) on Mar 5, 2016 at 7:57pm PST
The show might have been a treat for aquarium visitors, but it was a professional highlight for the aquarium’s staff and biologists, who reported that they’d never seen anything like it.
Although an otter gave birth in the tide pool in December, no one was present to witness it.
“Our sea otter researchers have been watching wild otters for years and have never seen a birth close up like this,” the aquarium wrote on its Tumblr this weekend. “We’re amazed and awed to have had a chance to witness this Monterey Bay conservation success story first hand in our own backyard.”
It was, the aquarium wrote on Instagram, “a truly and otterly amazing sight.”
Nearly two centuries after fur traders hunted sea otters to the verge of extinction, there are now about 3,000 in the waters off central California, making them a conservation success story.
By Sunday evening, mom and pup were still hanging out on the tide pool’s rocks, snoozing in the sun that shone between bursts of rain. Soon, the aquarium reported, the duo would head out to sea in search of food.
Another day, an otter mother. After an eventful night weathering a storm and navigating a tidepool-turned-wave-pool at high tide this morning, both mom and newborn pup spent the day lounging outside the Aquarium. The baby otter—which looked much larger than it did yesterday now that mom has fully fluffed its fur—squeaked and nursed and napped while mom navigated back and forth to the calmest spots in the outdoor pool. As the tide dropped and the waves subsided, she again hauled out on the rocks to groom and nap in the sun between scattered downpours—this time with an adorable fuzzball resting next to her. Soon, mom will get hungry and leave the Great Tidepool in search of food, taking her pup with her. We wish these two wild otters—part of a now-stable population in Central California that rebounded from the brink of extinction two centuries ago—the best of luck in the dramatic waters of the #MontereyBay. This incredible sight was made possible by the concerted efforts of citizens, government, and organizations like ours to protect these important nearshore predators. Thanks everyone for your help over the decades! #ConservationWorks! #hereslookingatyoukid #codspeed #montereybayaquarium
A photo posted by Monterey Bay Aquarium (@montereybayaquarium) on Mar 6, 2016 at 6:31pm PST
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