Eighth newborn sea otter cub confirmed at Cape Kiritappu

Oct. 12

The Cape Kiritappu (Cape Tofutsu) in the town of Hamanaka in Eastern Hokkaido’s Kushiro region is gradually becoming a breeding area for the sea otter, which is an endangered species. And on September 14, the eighth newborn sea otter cub was confirmed to have been born on the coast of the Cape. At the time of discovery, the newborn cub was assumed to be several days old, and it was covered with soft brown fur. It sat atop its mother’s stomach, squealing and suckling. Currently, two female sea otters are raising cubs at the Cape. They can be observed, but the mothers are extremely alert, so observers must take care to not make noise and hide in the grass.

Director Kataoka of the NPO Etopirika Fund, which has conducted sea otter surveying within the town of Hamanaka since 2017, reports that what appears to be a mother and child sea otter pair was discovered on September 12 in the offing of Kenbokki Island, near the Cape. And according to Kataoka, a newborn cub was visually confirmed at the tip of the Cape a little after noon on September 14. It cannot do more on its own than float, and the mother kept it atop her stomach, feeding and grooming it.

From both appearance and behavior, this mother is thought to be a female that had been observed in the Cape up until seven months ago (referred to as Female B for clarification). From 2018 onward, a different female who has stayed the longest in the Cape (referred to as Female A) has given birth to four cubs, and Female B has given birth to three cubs, making the newest cub the eighth newborn at the Cape. Currently, there are seven sea otters in the Cape area, including these two mother-cub families. Of these, four are females, and Kataoka is hoping for success in cub raising, saying, “The formation of a female group is the key to sea otter breeding. This is going to be a very important time.”

Cub raising for sea otters is handled by the females, and the timing for raising differs greatly for each mother. Female A is very good at raising cubs, and succeeded in raising one male and one female all the way to independent adulthood in half of a year. Currently, she is raising one female cub that was born in late April, and is expected to separate from that cub in a little over another month. Female B, on the other hand, has lost three of her cubs, showing behavior such as disappearing and leaving behind a four-month-old cub who had been born in late February.

In July, the Town government, fishing industry, and people involved in tourism created watching rules that aim for better subsistence with sea otters. In addition to rules such as keeping on footpaths and not making loud noises, conduct such as approaching sea otters on boats, feeding them, and using drones is prohibited.

A mother sea otter holds the eighth cub born at the Cape

Location

Cape Kiritappu (Cape Tofutsu)

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