IUCN Otter Specialist Group . . . leading global otter conservation Last Update: Tuesday January 3, 2012
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What is the lifespan of the Sea Otters in our region? Sometimes kayakers will find baby Sea Otters all by themselves. They get worried that the baby has been abandoned & then they bring the baby into our village thinking that the local village residents can save it. Of course, they should have left it in the sea for many reasons - the Mother may have just left temporarily. The pups usually die because the replacement milk won't work as a substitute for the Mother Otter's breast milk. If this happens again, what would be the best food for the pup?

Susan Plensky, Kyuquot,BC Canada, 27 June 2010

Response from Angela Doroff

Sea otters live up to 20yrs (females) and about 15yrs (males).  Sea otters in your area were originally from the Aleutian Islands (Amchitka Island) and Prince William Sound, Alaska, during 1969-1072.  So I assume that the lifespan is still similar to the parent population.

In Alaska (and elsewhere in the U.S.), we have had a fairly long-standing information/education campaign to let people know not to  pick up pups, that, I think, is the 1st step.  A look, don’t touch, call the marine mammal stranding hotline for information before doing anything.  In the U.S., it is illegal to pick up or disturb marine mammals (it still happens tho).  I am not sure what the laws in Canada are regarding picking up marine mammals.

The amount of time a female otter will leave her pup while foraging is highly variable.  The longest interval I have observed is 45min ~ the pup was secure in kelp.  In general, the time interval is much less than that though.  If you can get people to observe for a few hours before doing anything that is a real plus to both the pup and the mother!  When a pup is picked up, it can no longer be put back into the wild and it is difficult, at times, to get them placed in zoos and aquaria.  There are formulas for “sea otter pup milk” which include liquefied squid and clam mixture. 

So if an 'abandoned' sea otter pup is reported, keep it under observation, and call one of theMarine Stranding Hotlines which are listed at


Hope that helps!
All the Best,


Response provided 6 July 2010