Rialto the rescued baby sea otter has a big pool all his own, and tips the scales at nearly 20 pounds.
Rialto the rescued baby sea otter is thriving in his new home at the Vancouver Aquarium in British Columbia.
He’s growing so fast, he tips the scales at nearly 20 pounds and immediately outgrew the baby pool in his nursery. So now Rialto has access whenever he wants it to a big, outdoor 6-foot-deep pool all his own. He is a hit with visitors to the aquarium, who can watch him in his pool, and the attraction seems to be mutual.
He particularly seems to love the attention of little children, said Shawn Larson, curator of conservation research at the Seattle Aquarium. She visited the Vancouver Aquarium last week to help care for Rialto.
“When there are kids he swims right over and checks them out; he is really interested in smaller children,” Larson said.
She helped hand raise Rialto at the Seattle Aquarium, which stepped up to rescue the pup when he was found Aug. 1 starving and near death on Rialto Beach in Olympic National Park. Hence his name.
The Seattle Aquarium nursed Rialto back to health with round-the-clock care until Sept. 19. By then robust and growing fast, he was moved to the Vancouver Aquarium.
Larson said Rialto eats six times a day and still loves to be bottle fed.
His coat has long since transformed from the fluffy golden natal pelage of a sea otter pup to the rich, deep, chocolate-brown fur of an adult.
One of his favorite things to do is dig and play in a tub of ice, crunching the cubes in his teeth.
Independent now, Rialto can get in and out of his pool himself, swim all he wants, and climb in and out of his crib for naps. He sleeps primarily at night, going to bed about 8 p.m. and getting up about 7 a.m.
“He really is like a perfect baby; he stays up all day and just plays and plays and plays,” Larson said. A little more than 3 months old now, Rialto is energetic, investigates everything around him and zooms around his pool with zest, Larson said.
“He is just so sunny, and brimming with joy and life, and being an otter.”
Rialto still gets 24/7 care, and Larson is part of a team of caregivers that makes the trip from Seattle to help the Vancouver Aquarium with his care.
On this visit, Larson wondered if Rialto would remember her. It was the first time she had come back since riding up with Rialto in the back of a van on moving day, holding his paw through the wire cage.
As soon as she came into view in his nursery, saying “Oh Muffin! How are you doing!” Rialto climbed to the edge of his crib, Larson said, and looked right at her. “He made a sound I’ve never heard before, between a whine and a bark, as if to say, ‘Where have you been!,’ ” Larson said.
“He definitely remembered me. It was heartbreaking and wonderful all at the same time. It was so hard to leave him again.”
The long-term plan is to introduce Rialto to other otters at the aquarium. Since he was orphaned too young to be returned to the wild, the Vancouver Aquarium is his permanent home.