Pup gets ready to meet other sea otters at Vancouver Aquarium
Four-month-old Hardy is 1 of 6 sea otters at the facility, which has recently seen an influx of stranded baby sea otters.
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Four-month-old pup Hardy is diving into the very social world of sea-otter life and will soon be ready to meet all the sea otters at the Vancouver Aquarium.
Staff carefully introduced newcomer Hardy to the eldest female sea otter at the facility, Tanu, last week.
“Tanu will ease Hardy into sea-otter life,” said senior marine mammal trainer Kristi Heffron.
“Tanu is a very laid back animal which is one of the reasons we chose her to be introduced with Hardy first. She’s done exactly what we expected to do and been really gentle with him.”
Visitors can now watch the pair swim and interact together at the aquarium, just in time for Sea Otter Awareness Week, which runs Sept. 23 to Oct. 1.
Hardy will likely be ready to meet the four other younger and more rambunctious otters in the coming months, said Heffron.
Taking care of six sea otters and ensuring they all get along is no easy task and the aquarium took in four of them within a year. The influx started with Rialto, the one-year-old that was transferred to the Vancouver Aquarium from Seattle last summer. Then came Mak and Kunik, who arrived via Alaska in November and are now one and a half years old.
Katmai, five, and Tanu, 13, are the other two otters at the aquarium.
“We want to make sure that everyone is in a good social environment. With Hardy in the mix, because he’s so new a young, it does put different parameter on things,” said Heffron.
Currently, Katmai, Mak, Kunik, and Rialto live together in a separate enclosure while Hardy gets used to Tanu.
“We’re always watching and making sure they’re getting along,” she said.
Staff have their hands full with the six otters, feeding each of them six times a day a diet of restaurant-grade fish like pollock and squid as well as shellfish like scallop and sea urchin. Otters are voracious eaters and consume a quarter of their body weight every day. In fact, it costs the aquarium $30,000 a year to feed one full-grown otter.
The otters also receive treats like ice cubes, toys like balls or puzzles, and training sessions to keep their minds sharp.
Staff are not sure why there have been more sea-otter-pup rescues than usual in recent years. But many have come to the Vancouver Aquarium simply because the facility had space.
Wally, the blind sea otter, passed away in December 2017 and Elfin passed away in April 2017 after living at the aquarium for 16 years.
But the aquarium is able to take care of even more sea otters if needed – in the 90s, the aquarium was home to 10 sea otters, according to marine mammal curator, Brian Sheehan.
There are about 6,000 sea otters living in B.C. waters, off the west coast of Vancouver Island and along the central coast near Bella Bella. The B.C. population is listed as threatened and some populations near California and Alaska are endangered.