A loving mother otter has discovered an ingenious way to keep her newborn pup dry and warm: letting the little one ride on her belly.
Renowned nature photographer Suzi Eszterhas, 40, captured this heartwarming moment between the southern sea otters in Monterey Bay, California.
Eszterhas observed the caring mom lift her pup out of the water and onto her belly, ensuring it remained warm and dry.
Watch the video at the end.
The mother otter even groomed her baby by blowing air into its fur. The photographer was pleasantly surprised when the otters swam close to where she stood.
Eszterhas watched the mother otter leave her pup floating in the water, supported by its layer of natal fur, while she dove beneath the surface to hunt for small prey. She used a long telephoto lens to photograph the mother and pup without interrupting their bonding time.
Having photographed sea otters for over 20 years, Eszterhas is familiar with their behaviors. “Most sea otter mothers are quite shy with their babies, but this mother was very habituated to people, and she was very relaxed as she lovingly raised her pup in a busy harbor,” she said.
The mother otter would even leave her pup close to the dock while she foraged for food, making Eszterhas feel like a babysitter.
Nearly 3,000 sea otters inhabit the California coast, all descendants of a 50-otter colony discovered in 1938. They eat over 100 species, including crabs, mussels, and octopuses.
Conservation efforts have increased the sea otter population worldwide, but the International Union for Conservation of Nature still classifies them as endangered.
Watch the video below:
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