Otter pup due for move to the big city

Posted: Tuesday, September 25, 2001

The orphaned baby sea otter found near Hoonah two months ago soon will be on his way from Seward to Vancouver, British Columbia.

From a rocky start when he needed treatment with antibiotics, the otter, named Elfin, has grown quickly and is being weaned to solid food such as the occasional crab leg. He's losing his buoyant baby coat, and soon will be able to dive, said veterinarian Natalie Noll, rehabilitation coordinator for the Alaska SeaLife Center in Seward where the otter is living in a special nursery.

"We need to get him in with other sea otters, and then he will be home free, knock on wood," Noll said. "We have construction and staffing issues, and he needs to be socialized with other sea otters as soon as possible."

She is hoping the transfer will take place next week, and is angling for a donated flight to Vancouver. Elfin needs a familiar caretaker to accompany him on the flight, to check his temperature and make sure the change of scene does not stress him. "He's equal emotionally to a 2-year-old (human child), and knows his mom," she said.

Fishermen rescued the pup on July 15 in Gull Cove, near Elfin Cove, after he was found alone and his mother could not be spotted. About 6 days old and weighing 3 pounds, he was flown to the Alaska SeaLife Center in Seward, where he became the focus of round-the-clock shifts of volunteer attention bottle feeding, washing and blow-drying to keep him healthy.

Elfin has learned to swim in a large pool and to snack on solid food, such as whole razor clams and shrimp in the shell. "One of our volunteers got some live clams, and he learned how to open them," said Christine DeCourtney of the SeaLife Center. "But he is still needing round-the-clock care and we have no interns left."

Elfin has grown to 11 pounds, and has mastered how to get satisfaction from his caretakers. When he's hungry, he screams piercingly. "He drinks a bottle of clams, squid, vitamins, etc., but thoroughly enjoys shrimp, clams and squid after his bottle," DeCourtney said.

Paperwork is being processed by the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service so the pup can go to the Vancouver Aquarium, where he will join three adult sea otters, two males and one female.

"Hopefully the female will adopt him," DeCourtney said.


Ann Chandonnet can be reached at

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