A day-old otter was left crying out for her mother following a fatal orca attack in Alaska, wildlife officials said.
Natalie Hunter, a wildlife response member with the Alaska SeaLife Center, was on a fishing trip with friends in Homer on Sept. 9 when she saw two wild orcas, according to a Sept. 18 news release by the center.
The group was excited to have spotted the creatures, and the “captain shut the motor off to observe” from afar, officials said.
That’s when a ruckus under an otter in the water started. Hunter then realized the whales were from a transient pod and the otter was their prey, wildlife officials said.
After hearing calls from a pup, the group noticed the otter was carrying her baby, the release said.
Then, multiple orca attacks began.
The mama and her pup were flung out of the water after a tail slap from an orca, and the two were separated, officials said.
The orcas zeroed in on the mother otter, and eventually she didn’t resurface, the release said.
Hunter called the Alaska SeaLife Center Wildlife Response Hotline after making sure the orcas didn’t return for the newborn.
Hunter and her friends heard the pup’s “persistent cries” for her mother, officials said.
“It was weird to be on the other side of the wildlife response hotline. It wasn’t someone calling me to report an animal in need. It was the other way around,” Hunter said in the release. “My brain was in wildlife response mode during the entire incident, thinking we, unfortunately, may have an otter pup rescue on our hands. It wasn’t until the entire event ended, the wild orcas had left the area, and the pup started crying out for its mother that I knew we had to think about the next move.”
After getting permission from the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, the group pulled the otter, with umbilical cord still attached, out of the water and onto the boat, officials said.
“Her cries were gurgly, and when we got her out of the water, she was soaked,” Hunter said in the release. “Her coat wasn’t repelling water and keeping her buoyant like it should have been.”
Even though tired and hungry, the pup is in good health and is receiving 24/7 care because pups of this age get “constant attention from their mothers,” the release said.