Orphaned sea otters make Minnesota Zoo their new home

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Two baby sea otters, now named Denali and Nuka, are in the care of the Minnesota Zoo after being rescued by Alaska SeaLife Center staff just days apart.

Denali was rescued in September with permission from the United States Fish and Wildlife Service after receiving reports that the otter was abandoned near Kenai, Alaska. The otter was reported to be malnourished and dehydrated, just over 5 months old.

Nuka, estimated to be only a few days old, was found days later when an off-duty SeaLife Center staff member saw an orca attack Nuka’s mother. The mother never resurfaced, but Nuka was able to be rescued.

After being moved to the Minnesota Zoo, one of the SeaLife Center’s partners, Denali and Nuka are receiving “around the clock care,” according to the zoo in Apple Valley. That includes “extensive health monitoring and assistance with eating, grooming and swimming.”

Dr. Anne Rivas, Minnesota Zoo Director of Animal Health, said in a press release that caring for such young animals can be challenging due to how quickly their health can change.

Kurt Heizmann, Minnesota Zoo Director of Animal Care, said Denali and Nuka are being kept in separate spaces.

“One will be in our reserve pools, separated from our three resident male sea otters, while the youngest otter will be cared for in her own behind-the-scenes nursery,” Heizmann said in the release.

The zoo said the otters will be kept away from the public for the next few months, but updates would be shared on social media.

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