MMR Marine Mammal Rescue Centre Patient Directory

Joey & VA Sea Otters: Frequently Asked Questions


What is Joey?

Joey is a juvenile sea otter (Enhydra lutris).

How did Joey get to you?

We are a hospital for sick, injured, orphaned and abandoned marine mammals. Joey was discovered near Kyuquot, BC, Canada after a concerned member of the public heard him vocalizing overnight. An adult female, presumed to be his mother, was found deceased nearby the next morning. Joey was flown to Vancouver and admitted to the Marine Mammal Rescue Centre shortly after.

Where is Joey now?

Joey has been moved to the Vancouver Aquarium after being deemed non-releasable by Fisheries and Oceans Canada, the federal government agency overseeing our work. He will remain at the Vancouver Aquarium, which will provide a permanent home for him.

Why can Joey not be released?

Joey was only 10 days old at the time of his rescue. As a result, he never had a chance to learn survival skills from his mother. Sea otters pups would normally spend about 6 months with their mothers and during that time learn how to forage, use tools, avoid predators ─ and behave like wild sea otters. That is something that we cannot replace; and Joey therefore lacks essential skills he would need to survive in the wild.

Why can Joey not be raised by a “surrogate mother”?

There is only one facility in the world that has had long-standing success with “surrogate mothers”, non-releasable adults that already have survival skills and would be able to teach the pup. Each surrogate mother can only care for one pup at a time, and the process takes a very long time. This program also only exists for southern sea otters (Joey is a northern one).

There is no surrogacy program for northern sea otters at this time at all, anywhere in the world. We only ever rescue one sea otter pup every couple of years, and we do not have non-releasable adult sea otters that would have survival skills to pass on. Setting up and sustaining such a program would therefore not be a viable option.

As a result, many orphaned sea otter pups in North America are deemed non-releasable and find homes at zoos or aquariums across the continent, where they are being cared for by professionals with the skills required to provide care for a sea otter, in appropriate social groups.

Biology and Behaviour

Does Joey have teeth yet?

Joey has a full set of very impressive teeth.

How long does Joey sleep?

In an average day, adult sea otters spends about eight hours feeding, five to six hours grooming, and about 11 hours resting/sleeping. Joey is still very young and sleeps at random times, night and day, for at least that long.


Is the water in his habitat freshwater or saltwater?

The water is fresh ocean water (saltwater). It is being pumped into the Aquarium from Burrard Inlet. The water is constantly being replaced in a cycle, throughout the day.

What toys does he/do they have?

Joey and the other sea otters at the Aquarium have lots and lots of enrichment toys, some contributed by his caretakers and, some by fans from around the world. They are constantly swapped out to keep things interesting, but Joey and his friends do have their favourites.

Isn’t the light bad for the otters’ sleep?

The lights making the scene visible at night look like ‘real’ light on camera, but the habitats are lit up with infrared light that is visible only to the cameras’ sensors. Neither people nor the otters are able to see in the infrared spectrum, so it doesn’t disturb their sleep.

Social Groups

When will Joey meet other sea otters?

Joey has already met a number of other sea otters and continues to spend time with them. He may also still have some days alone, to allow him (and his new friends) to catch a break every now and then.

Why is X not on camera?

The composition of social groups within the Vancouver Aquarium’s sea otter population changes frequently and for many reasons, among them enrichment, animal welfare, management ─ and healthcare. Also keep in mind that some animals may simply not get along well enough to spend time together without supervision.

We only have cameras in two of the otter habitats and are unable to show all animals all the time. There are multiple habitats behind the scenes, and if an animal is not shown on camera, it’s likely that it is currently located in one of those. We do not know why a specific animal may be on or off camera, or why the groups are composed in a certain way at any given time.