SeaWorld Otter Nursery – a behind the scenes look at the best job ever

We are reaching the end of Sea Otter Awareness Week and I have read so many wonderful stories about these adorable mammals. Not only are they cute, but they also play a vital role in our ecosystem. California sea otters were once hunted for their fur and almost pushed to extinction; their population is still limited but with education, rescue and rehabilitation facilities, and new laws in place we can all help protect the sea otter population. Our visits to SeaWorld San Diego always include some time observing the sea otters and learning about new rescues. Recently a video of an adorable otter pup being fluffed at the Monterey Bay aquarium went viral and has the caretakers deemed as having “the dream job.” Over the past couple of years we have learned about the SeaWorld San Diego otter nursery and just what goes on behind the scenes at the best job ever. It’s so much more than just fluffing cute babies as they require around the clock care. Having a new baby at home myself, that 24 shift in the otter nursery doesn’t look any different than that of a parent at home with their newborn baby. 


Just behind Dolphin Point at SeaWorld San Diego you’ll find the Otter Lookout exhibit where you can observe otters swimming and interacting with each other. Otters are very charismatic and busy animals, watching them play is a fun experience.  


Sometimes you will also get to see the SeaWorld team interacting with the otters too. 


SeaWorld San Diego has a permanent otter nursery just on the other side of the observation area. With so many challenges faced by otters, many different situations could bring an otter pup to the SeaWorld nursery. In their natural environment, sea otter pups are dependent on their mothers their first year. Without their mothers, at the SeaWorld San Diego otter nursery, they receive lots of TLC to become independent.


The door remains locked but some days you’ll have the opportunity to peer into the windows and on most occasions, see a baby otter being rehabilitated.


During a visit last year Marcia walked us through her typical day in the otter nursery with a sea otter pup. Unlike some other marine animal babies, new pups cannot be left unattended in the water. During this visit the nursery did not have a pup in their care. But Marcia is an expert at caring for sea otter pups as she is regularly on a 24 hour shift rotation when a new baby arrives.


Just like human babies, otter pups require a lot of attention and supplies. Babies are bottle fed and must learn to spend time in and out of the water. Grooming is critical but otter pups are not capable of drying their own fur. Their fur acts as an insulation to keep them warm so constant grooming is essential. Each time the pup comes out of the water, their fur is blown dry and groomed. Marcia’s day is spent playing, feeding, teaching, and grooming. Otter pups are very vocal, just like human babies. 


Imagine my daughter’s excitement when several months after she learned about how Marcia cares for sea otter pups, we visited the otter nursery with a new sea otter pup in their care. Baby Pumpkin had already grew and learned quite a bit since his arrival to the nursery. He was found abandoned by his mother in the wild and wouldn’t have survived without the care provided in the SeaWorld otter nursery.


We saw Marcia in action grooming the otter pup and heard many cute stories of his development and progress.


Pumpkin’s days were spent receiving lots of TLC, learning to play, eating, and sleeping – just like a human baby!


My daughter and Marina, former Miss California, were in love with Pumpkin! But that admiration also came with the realization Pumpkin is a wild animal and requires far more care than one would assume.


Like with all animals rescued by SeaWorld, the intention is to return them to their natural environment but some animals are not able to safely make a return. Pumpkin the sea otter is a wonderful rescue story and a great opportunity for SeaWorld visitors to learn about the threatened California sea otter population.

Taking care of an otter pup is quite the demanding role but also extremely rewarding. Who wouldn’t want to spend everyday watching a cute bundle of fur grow? All while knowing you are making a great contribution to the natural sea otter population! Thank you to all the wonderful employees and volunteers helping to make a difference!


What can we do to help sea otters?

  • Properly dispose of trash to guarantee it does not end up in the sea otters’ natural environment.
  • Never flush kitty litter as it has a bacteria that is extremely dangerous to sea otters.

Learn more about how SeaWorld San Diego cares for otters in this video featuring Marcia

Read why I choose to support SeaWorld if you are interested in our frequent visits to the parks. 

Connect with SeaWorld San Diego on FacebookInstagram, and with Clyde the Sea Lion on Twitter to learn more about the park and special events. 

Disclosure: Our family receives complimentary tickets to SeaWorld and animal interaction experiences with many learning opportunities. All opinions are my own.

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