It was quite a feel-good story when “Olive the Oiled Otter” was released back into the ocean in 2009, after her rescue following a natural seepage event off Central California. But more recently Olive thrilled researchers and her many Facebook followers by becoming a mother. She was seen last week swimming off the Santa Cruz area with what scientists say is the first pup born in California to a previously oiled sea otter. (First two images show Olive with pup; third shows her covered in oil, after her rescue and during rehab.)
Scientists became aware that Olive was pregnant in early August, after she was captured and given a checkup.
“After being rehabilitated, she was released back into the wild on April 7, 2009, and we’ve followed her since,” said Laird Henkel, manager of the Marine Wildlife Veterinary Care and Research Center. “In recent months, she’s been known to frequent a surf spot in Capitola known to locals as ‘The Hook.’ Olive has successfully re-integrated back into the wild, socializing with other otters and foraging normally.”
The facility is funded through the California Department of Fish and Game’s Office of Spill Prevention and Response.
Olive, who is tagged so researchers can keep tabs on her whereabouts, was rehabilitated during a process that included frequent olive oil baths to loosen the oil from her fur–hence her name.
She was first spotted clutching a newborn pup on her chest on Sept. 7, off Capitola. More recent observations have revealed attentive grooming, nursing, and carrying.
The timing of the birth is just before the 10th anniversary of Sea Otter Awareness Week, Sept. 23-39.
Southern sea otters are iconic critters, but they’re a federally threatened species. The most recent survey estimates California’s southern sea otter population at 2,792. That represents a tiny upward trend, reversing a downward trend that became evident during previous surveys.
So Olive, after surviving a very sticky situation, appears to be doing her part to replenish the species.
–Images showing Olive with her newborn pup are courtesy of the U.S. Geological Survey and California Department of Fish and Game
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