Facebook followers of “Olive the Oiled Otter” received good news today: Scientists found her with what they believe is her second pup. The birth of Olive’s first pup last fall was a milestone in oiled wildlife rehabilitation as it was the first pup born to a previously oiled sea otter in California. The birth of this pup further confirms that oiled wildlife can continue contributing to the population after rehabilitation and release.
After a several week hiatus, during which scientists could not locate Olive, she was spotted Tuesday morning clutching a newborn pup, according to CDFW Environmental Scientist Colleen Young, based at CDFW’s Marine Wildlife Veterinary Care and Research Center in Santa Cruz.
Both mom and pup appeared to be healthy and Olive was observed holding, grooming and nursing her new pup at the Capitola surf spot she’s been known to frequent, known to locals as “The Hook.”
“Olive’s second known pup further demonstrates that formerly oiled wildlife can successfully reproduce, again validating the importance of rehabilitating oiled wildlife,” Young said.
In July 2012 sea otter researchers from CDFW, the U.S. Geological Survey and Monterey Bay Aquarium discovered Olive was pregnant with her first pup when they brought her into a mobile veterinary lab for the first exam since her release. The team determined she was about halfway through a normal pregnancy term. She was given new flipper tags and released back to her capture site.
“Olive,” who was estimated to be a year old at the time of her rescue in February 2009, earned her name during rehabilitation when the staff used olive oil as part of the intensive washing process.
After being rehabilitated, she was released back into the wild on April 7, 2009 and has been monitored since. Most of her sightings have been at the near shore kelp beds off Capitola.
CDFW scientists will continue monitoring Olive and her new pup at a safe distance to document her success in the wild while avoiding disturbance to the new family.
CDFW teams with the Monterey Bay Aquarium and the U.S. Geological Survey to study the ecology and population trends of the Southern Sea Otter, which is listed as a federally threatened species. Results of the 2012 sea otter survey listed a population index of 2,792, which represents a very small increase in number and reverses the downward trend of the last few years.
The public has the opportunity to donate to the Sea Otter Tax Check-off Fund to support sea otter research. Donations can be made on line 410 of Californians’ individual income tax returns. For more information on the Sea Otter Tax Check-off Fund visit www.dfg.ca.gov/taxcheck .
Additional information on Olive’s progress and photos are available at www.facebook.com/Olivetheoiledotter . General information on sea otter research is also available at www.dfg.ca.gov/ospr/Science/sea_otter_research.aspx .
Photos for media use provided by CDFW: