From Monterey Bay Aquarium:
Mae, First Otter to Raise a Pup on Exhibit, Dies
We’re sad to report that Mae, an 11-year-old female sea otter who had
been part of our sea otter exhibit since she was eight months old, died
over the weekend from a seizure disorder whose cause is still unknown.
Her seizures began suddenly just a few days before her death on Saturday
afternoon, November 17.
Mae was rescued as a two-day-old pup near Santa Cruz in April 2001,
and raised by our Sea Otter Research and Conservation (SORAC) program
team. She joined the sea otter exhibit in December 2001 when it became
clear that she was not acquiring the skills she needed to be returned to
the wild. She was the first animal we’d added to the exhibit since 1986
– starting a new generation of exhibit animals as our original sea
otters reached the end of their lives.
That wasn’t Mae’s only “first” with us. In 2010, she became the first
surrogate mother otter to raise an orphaned pup on exhibit at the
aquarium. Her pup, Kit, is now living at SeaWorld San Diego. Mae served
as a companion animal to several otters as part of the SORAC program.
Her name – that of a truck-stop waitress with a screeching voice in
John Steinbeck’s Grapes of Wrath – was chosen in another first-ever
process. It was selected for her by the public in an online poll.
Mae, nicknamed “Mayhem” by her caretakers, was a vocal and feisty sea
otter who would make direct eye contact with and stick her tongue out
at trainers when displeased, according to staff who worked with her.
She was also an enthusiastic partner in training sessions, said Chris
DeAngelo, associate curator of marine mammals.
“Mae definitely knew the most behaviors of any of our otters and was
wonderful to teach new behaviors,” Chris said. “She was one of the first
animals that new trainers learned to work with because she was very
consistent and good with dealing with ‘trainer errors.’ We’ll all miss
Chris and the sea otter staff also called Mae “the monkey” because
she would hold objects like ice molds and toys with her tail, leaving
her paws open to accept whatever came next. While none of the other
adult otters displayed this behavior, it was picked up by some of the
pups Mae raised.
Senior Sea Otter Aquarist Cecelia Azhderian appreciated Mae’s playfulness.
“She loved big buckets,” Cecelia said “She could hardly wait for them
to be filled with water before she’d get inside, even though she didn’t
like the water hose, which she’d attack it if it came too close.”
Our sea otter exhibit is currently closed for renovations and will
reopen in mid-March. Exhibit otters Rosa and Abby and are being housed
behind the scenes.