This wild mother sea otter and her pup showed up in the Great Tide Pool at the Monterey Bay Aquarium on Wednesday, Jan. 22. The aquarium posted this and the following photos on its Facebook page, capturing the hearts of tens of thousands of fans.
Sea otters usually have only one offspring. Baby sea otters will stay with their mothers for six months or longer. Mama otter teaches her baby how to forage for food, groom, swim and more. Without her, baby otter is helpless.
This mother snuggled her pup not unlike a human mother does, complete with pulling it closer to her from under the baby's arms.
The visiting wild baby otter floats in the calm waters of the tide pool. Sea otters eat about 40 different marine species, including sea urchins, crabs, clams and abalone. They have to eat about a quarter of their weight in order to fuel their swimming, diving and, of course, floating.
A crowd watches the sea otter and her baby floating. The photo generated wishful comments from those not lucky enough to be in the right place at the right time. "I wish I could have been there to see that!" said one Facebooker.
Cool otter fact: Sea otters hold the record for the thickest fur in the animal kingdom: 800,000 to a million hairs per square inch. So much hair goes a long way toward insulating them from the cold waters they live in. But it also means they spend much of their time maintaining it.
Visits from mother and pup pairs aren't that common, said an aquarium press contact. "It happens occasionally (we have had other instances of mom/pups in the Great Tide Pool -- at least two other times in the past several years that I can recall), but not quite what I’d call frequently or often. Yesterday’s visit was definitely a treat!"
It's nearly impossible to see where mom ends and baby begins. The pup is small now, but he won't be forever. Sea otters are the heaviest members of the weasel family and the male California sea otters can grow to weigh 65 pounds; Northern sea otters can reach up to 100 pounds. Grow up big and strong, lil pup.