Saving Otter 501

Full Episode

On a typical late summer day a baby sea otter washes up on the beach in Monterey, California — hungry, lost, injured. It’s a tragic event, but not surprising. California sea otters are struggling. For decades marine biologist Karl Mayer and his small staff have worked unceasingly — one otter at a time — to bring this “keystone” species back from the brink of extinction so it can play its important role in the local marine environment. But the effort has stalled, and no one knows why. This is the story of the Monterey Bay Aquarium’s 501st attempt to save an orphan otter. From her discovery as a stranded newborn pup crying on the beach through her rehabilitation in secret roof tanks atop the Aquarium, NATURE follows as Otter 501 learns how to dive, hunt, eat, and fend for herself in the wild, where survival is a long shot at best.

Saving Otter 501 premiered on October 16,2013.

Saving Otter 501 in Pictures

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Otter 501 being being carefully groomed Otter 501 being being carefully groomed as part of her 8 month long journey to being re-released back into the wild. Photo credit: ©Sea Studios Foundation
Otter 501 being bottle fedOtter 501 being bottle fed a special "otter milk" formula at the Monterey Bay Aquarium. Photo credit: ©Sea Studios Foundation
A stranded southern sea otter pupA stranded southern sea otter pup is being assesed by the Monterey Bay Aquarium's Karl Mayer. This pup was brought in for further assesment and possible rehabilitation and release back into the wild. Photo credit: ©Sea Studios Foundation
Female southern sea otter pupFemale southern sea otter pup (Enhydra lutris nereis) 502. Photo credit: Randy Wilder/©Monterey Bay Aquarium
A Southern Sea Otter mom grooms her pup A Southern Sea Otter mom grooms her pup in Monterey Bay, California. Photo credit: ©Jim Capwell
Otter 501 gets a first taste of solid foodOtter 501 gets a first taste of solid food — raw clams fed by Monterey Bay Aquarium's Animal Care Coordinator for their Sea Otter Research and Conservation (SORAC) program, Karl Mayer. Photo credit: ©Sea Studios Foundation
Otter 501 is ready to be groomedOtter 501 is ready to be groomed by Monterey Bay Aquarium's Animal Care Coordinator for their Sea Otter Research and Conservation (SORAC) program, Karl Mayer. Karl is wearing the "Darth Vader" dusguise used to isolate the human form from the otters that will be released by into the wild. Photo Credit: ©Sea Studios Foundation
Otter 501 and her surrogate mom, ToolaOtter 501 and her surrogate mom, Toola, at play in the tank 501 was raised in. Photo Credit: ©Sea Studios Foundation
Otter 501 being releasedOtter 501 being released back into the wild by Monterey Bay Aquarium's Animal Care Coordinator for their Sea Otter Research and Conservation (SORAC) program, Karl Mayer and an assistant. Photo credit: ©Sea Studios Foundation