Health

Shedd names newest otter pup Seldovia in nod to his origins

Almost four months after a rescued northern sea otter pup arrived at the Shedd Aquarium from Alaska, his ties to home remain strong. He has been named Seldovia for the remote town where he was found in late October.

In a news release, the aquarium said the name “will serve as a lifelong reminder of his story and connection to his native range.” It originates from a Russian word used to refer to the once large herring population in the bay.

Members of the Seldovia Village Tribe, located in the Southern Kenai Peninsula, and others in the community participated in his rescue and have accompanied him from afar as he gets better. When locals noticed the distressed pup swimming near the docks alone on Halloween night, they contacted staff at the Alaska SeaLife Center who collected, fed, treated and rehabilitated him.

Once settled at Shedd, no longer malnourished and wounded, the otter was connected to the Alaskan community in a virtual encounter where children heard from aquarium educators and caretakers and got a close look at the pup before choosing a name for him.

“We are honored to deepen our commitment and connection to community through this special experience,” Shedd’s Director of Community Partnerships and Impacts Amy Mall said in a news release. “Through this collaboration, we not only honor this community’s pivotal role in the rescue of the pup, but bring everyone eye-to-eye to this remarkable otter creating a meaningful moment between people and aquatic life that exemplifies our mission.”

After acclimating behind the scenes, Seldovia was introduced to the otter exhibit in the Abbot Oceanarium in February. He has met and spends most of his time with two of the southern sea otters, Watson and Luna. Introductions with Suri and Willow, who were rescued off the coast of California in 2022, have also begun.

The votes are in: Shedd Aquarium reveals names of 2 new otters. And here’s how to spot them in person.

At the otter habitat, visitors can spot Seldovia, the smallest with the darkest fur, though every day he can choose to stay behind the scenes or be out on exhibit.

Seldovia has interacted positively with caregivers at the aquarium in the last few months and has engaged in behaviors and skills such as diving 16 feet deep in his new habitat, foraging for treats and toys at the bottom and grooming himself to maintain his dense fur coat — which can contain up to 1 million hairs per square inch.

Since his arrival in late November, Seldovia has grown from 10 to about 20 pounds and has gone from feeding from formula to eating fish. Adult sea otters can weigh between 72 and 100 pounds, so he’ll still be able to expand his diet, eventually learning to open crabs and clams to eat.

adperez@chicagotribune.com

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