PHOTOS: Rescued sea otter pups being named in a digital contest

Photo: Shedd Aquarium/Brenna Hernandez

Heading into Sea Otter Awareness Week (Sept. 22-28), people across the country will have a say in how two rescued southern sea otter pups at Chicago’s Shedd Aquarium get names. The aquarium will host a digital naming contest focused on building affinity and understanding around sea otters and inspiring voters to also make their voices heard in support of conservation legislation and protections that are critical for vulnerable species.

The 5-month-old pups, both males, were discovered on the coast of California with no mother or adult otters in sight at just a couple of weeks old and rescued by partners at the Monterey Bay Aquarium. Currently referred to by their intake numbers, Pups 870 and 872 were cared for at Monterey before Shedd Aquarium’s Animal Response Team flew out to California to assist in their care and accompany them home to Chicago. Since their arrival at Shedd, the pups have been living behind the scenes in the Regenstein Pup Nursery as animal care staff teach them how to be otters — building important skills like foraging, diving and grooming their dense fur.

Shedd Aquarium’s animal care staff prepared a short list of names for the public to choose from, and all the names correspond to a location along the coast of California where sea otters can be found. This helps the aquarium make a connection with guests to their native habitat and explain why sea otters are an important part of the marine ecosystem. The names for consideration are:

  • Cooper: named after Cupertino, Calif., near San Jose

  • Watson: named after the town of Watsonville, near Monterey and Port Watsonville, less than an hour’s drive from where pup 872 was found

  • Bennett: named after Point Bennett on San Miguel Island — one of the Channel Islands

  • Simon: named after Simonton Cove on San Miguel Island — one of the Channel Islands

  • Obi: short for Obispo of San Luis Obispo

The public can vote as many times as they’d like on Shedd’s website starting today. Voting will close on Saturday, Sept. 28. Throughout the week, the aquarium will also be sharing regular sea otter content and updates to help inform the vote, but also help people understand their role in protecting this species.

Photo: Shedd Aquarium/Brenna Hernandez

“Sea otters are around today because enough people came together and demanded protections like the Endangered Species Act — our country’s bedrock conservation legislation,” said Peggy Sloan, chief animal officer at Shedd Aquarium. “Aquariums like Shedd and Monterey can only rescue and rehabilitate so many otters — the best way we can ensure the continued survival of species like sea otters is by making your voices heard with elected officials, letting them know that you oppose the weakening of any kind on protections like the ESA.”

Shedd Aquarium plans to announce the winning names of the contest on Monday, Sept. 30. At that time, the otter pups will be introduced to the Regenstein Sea Otter Habitat, so the public may have their first opportunity to see the pups during a visit. This introduction will happen gradually over the following weeks, so the pups may still spend some intermittent time behind the scenes as well.

Shedd Aquarium is grateful to the Regenstein Foundation for its generous support for the rescue and rehabilitation of Shedd Aquarium’s newest sea otters. A longtime friend to the aquarium, the foundation has made significant contributions to these animals over many years, ensuring expert care in their home in the Regenstein Foundation Otter Habitat and Pup Nursery. Additional support for the rescue of these otters was generously provided by Lauran and Myrna Bromley. (Shedd Aquarium)

Photos by Brenna Hernandez/Shedd Aquarium

See more news-related photo galleries and follow us on Yahoo News Photo Twitter and Tumblr.

Photo: Shedd Aquarium/Brenna Hernandez
Photo: Shedd Aquarium/Brenna Hernandez
Photo: Shedd Aquarium/Brenna Hernandez
Photo: Shedd Aquarium/Brenna Hernandez
Photo: Shedd Aquarium/Brenna Hernandez
Photo: Shedd Aquarium/Brenna Hernandez
Photo: Shedd Aquarium/Brenna Hernandez
Photo: Shedd Aquarium/Brenna Hernandez
Photo: Shedd Aquarium/Brenna Hernandez
Photo: Shedd Aquarium/Brenna Hernandez

_____

Download the Yahoo News app to customize your experience.

Read more from Yahoo News: