Seldovia the sea otter settles in at Chicago aquarium

a sea otter
Seldovia is one of six sea otters at Chicago’s Shedd Aquarium, but the only one from Alaska. (Courtesy Shedd Aquarium)

An otter pup rescued in Seldovia last October now has a new name. The otter was first taken to the Alaska SeaLife Center in Seward before finding a new home at the Shedd Aquarium in Chicago.

The aquarium and Seldovia Village Tribe announced in a press release last Wednesday that the pup is now named Seldovia, after the place he was rescued. Joni Wise is SVT’s PR and marketing director. She said SVT staff narrowed the list of suggested names from community members to “Alutiiq” and “Seldovia.” Last month, children in Seldovia voted on the final name during a virtual encounter with the pup.

“The 17 kids were able to draw a picture of the sea otter or something related to the sea otter and they were able to vote on which name they preferred,” Wise said.

The name Seldovia won by one vote. Wise says Seldovia was discovered in October making distressed sounds without his mother in sight. He was rescued by SVT environmental specialist Stephen Payton before being transferred to the Alaska SeaLife Center. There, center staff helped in his recovery. The U.S. government deemed Seldovia non-releasable, so the center moved him to the Chicago-based aquarium.

Sea otters rely solely on their mothers for food and grooming at birth, so rescued sea otter pups require around the clock care for the first six months of their lives. This care makes them too used to humans to be released back to their natural environments.

Shedd Aquarium’s public relations manager, Kayley Ciocci, said Seldovia has adjusted well so far to aquarium life.

“He is doing all of those important behaviors that we expect from a sea otter like diving, foraging and grooming,” she said. “He is very engaged with enrichment items that we provide, some toys to get him stimulated and moving around.”

Seldovia is currently the only otter from Alaska at the aquarium. The museum’s five other otters are southern sea otters from California. Ciocci says he’s interacted with four of the otters, and aquarium staff are waiting for him to get bigger before meeting the last otter.

At six months old, Seldovia has yet to be introduced to food with harder shells like crabs and clams and has much more growing to do. In the meantime, Seldovia has made his public debut. Aquarium guests may have the chance to see the pup when he chooses to go to the viewing area.

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