Nuka the Northern Sea Otter Has Died at the Oregon Coast Aquarium

An otter swimming at the Oregon Coast Aquarium.
Oregon Coast Aquarium

It is with deep sadness that the Oregon Coast Aquarium announces the passing of Nuka, one of the Aquarium's resident northern sea otters. Located near Yaquina Bay in Newport, Oregon, the Oregon Coast Aquarium opened in 1992 on 23 acres.

Nuka passed away following an emergency veterinary procedure performed after staff observed atypical behavior and physical symptoms. The exact cause of Nuka's passing is unknown at this time; a necropsy will be conducted to learn more.

The sea otter nuka was just shy of turning 10 years old. Normally, sea otters live from their late teens to their early twenties. Even under the best circumstances, sea otters in human care can only live about as long as their wild counterparts, as their life expectancy is mainly determined by genetics and environmental factors.

It was in June 2013, when Nuka was discovered stranded on a beach near Kodiak, Alaska, and he was severely malnourished and only three months old. He was taken to Alaska SeaLife Center for care and deemed to be non-releasable. The Aquarium welcomed him in February 2014 to his forever home.

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Nuka, the Inuit word for younger brother, was the largest sea otter in the Aquarium's raft, weighing between 60 and 70 pounds. Although he was large, he never claimed dominance, and he was known for his relaxed attitude. He is survived by fellow sea otters Oswald, Schuster, and Earle.

As Nuka's caretakers described him, he was always the last to reach his station, and he would savor every shrimp he ate.

Blades had been caring for Nuka since he arrived at the Aquarium, and over the years watched him grow into an OCAq icon and fan favorite, fostering connections between Aquarium visitors and marine life.

“Nuka was our largest sea otter, and the easiest for our guests to identify,” said OCAq Curator of Marine Mammals Brittany Blades. “He enjoyed wrapping himself in kelp strips and sleeping atop a rock in the center of the habitat for everyone to see. We will all miss him so much.”

While Nuka's loss is felt throughout the Aquarium and beyond, we are comforted to know that his memory will live on in the hearts of those he touched.