A 1-day-old sea otter was rescued after being attacked by killer whales that also killed her mom, video shows

A sea otter pup with a technician holding a bottle
The young otter pup was admitted to the Alaska SeaLife Center Wildlife Response program after she and her mom were attacked by orcas.Alaska SeaLife Center
  • A group of people out fishing captured the moment a sea otter and her pup were attacked by orcas.

  • Video showed the otters being tossed around by killer whale tail flips.

  • The crying pup was rescued by the Alaska SeaLife Center after its mom did not resurface.

A sea otter no older than one day was rescued after it was attacked and orphaned by killer whales near Homer, Alaska, according to the Alaska SeaLife Center.

The orca attack was partially captured on video, and happened to be observed by a group of people with wildlife rescue experience, including Natalie Hunter, a lab technician at the ASLC, which is based in Seward and often responds to calls about abandoned sea otter pups.

The incident occurred on September 9, when Hunter and some friends spotted two killer whales while they were out fishing, ASLC said in a statement. The group also spotted an otter on the surface of the water, but did not realize initially that the whales were transient orcas, or part of a population that preys on mammals.

"It wasn't until a commotion under the otter happened that they realized what they were witnessing," the ASLC said, adding the group also realized the sea otter was carrying a pup, which was calling out.

The orcas repeatedly attacked the otters. Massive tail flips sent both the mother otter and pup flying out of the water. At one point, the mother otter did not resurface and the orcas swam away, leaving behind the otter pup that was crying out.

The group heard the cries, indicating the pup had survived, and acted quickly. They called the ASLC Wildlife Response Hotline, and the ASLC got permission from the US Fish and Wildlife Service to rescue the orphaned pup.

Sea otter pup being fed a bottle
The sea otter pup was less than a day old when it was rescued.Alaska SeaLife Center

"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, according to ASLC. "My brain was in wildlife response mode during the entire incident, thinking we, unfortunately, may have an otter pup rescue on our hands."

Hunter and her friend on board, who also had wildlife response experience, got the baby otter out of the water and onto their boat. The pup was brought to the ASLC to be treated by the wildlife response team.

"Staff conducted an admit exam and found that the pup was fatigued and hungry, but otherwise seemed to be in good health. A fresh umbilical cord confirmed the patient was only a day — possibly even hours old," the ASLC said.

Sea otter pup held by lab technician
The sea otter is too young to be released back into the wild, the Alaska SeaLife Center said.Alaska SeaLife Center

Jane Belovarac, ASLC Wildlife Response Curator, said most of the time when they get a report about a lone sea otter pup, they have to wait to see if the mother will return and that it's very rare to know how the pup ended up on its own.

"In this rare case, we know exactly what happened to this newborn pup," she said.

The pup was the second young sea otter being treated by the ASLC in less than a week. Sea otter pups are typically cared for by their mothers for the first six months of their lives, so the two pup are currently receiving care around the clock.

The ASLC told Insider their goal is always to return rescued animals to the wild, but that due to this particular otter's young age that would not be possible. It's not clear yet where the otter will eventually be placed.

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