Meet Cooper, Watson: Shedd Aquarium's orphaned sea otter pups get names

CHICAGO (WLS) -- The Shedd Aquarium's orphaned southern sea otter pups finally have names!

Earlier this month during Sea Otter Awareness Week, aquarium officials announced they were holding a digital naming contest to allow the public to vote on a few potential names that were up for consideration.

Officials said nearly 20,000 votes came in from across the country to name the five-month-old sea otter pups, who were temporarily referred by their intake numbers given to them when they were rescued by partners at Monterey Bay Aquarium.

The two winning names are:

Cooper: Named after Cupertino, California near San Jose
Watson: Named after the town of Watsonville, near Monterey and Port Watsonville, less than an hour drive from where one of the pups was found.

Cooper, formally known as pups 870, was discovered stranded alone near Stillwater Cove in Carmel Bay, California on May 18. Rescuers said while the pup was clinically healthy, they could not locate the mother and didn't want to risk leaving the pup vulnerable and alone.

Pup 872, now known as Watson, was discovered two days after Cooper. Rescuers said the pup was in distress at Asilomar State Beach in California among high winds and heavy surf. Rescuers said the pup was shivering, hypothermic and its coat was filled with sand, which they said suggests it was tossed in the surf.

The pair was welcomed to the facility in July after being deemed non-releasable by the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Services.

Both have been living behind the scenes since their arrival in the Regenstein Pup Nursery as animal care staff teach them how to be otters.

The focus of the contest was to not only tell the individual pups' stories, but to also build the public's affinity and understanding around sea otters. They said they hoped the contest would inspire voters to make their voices hear in support of conservation legislation and protections that are critical for the vulnerable species.

"We are delighted by all the excitement that this naming vote generated and even happier to have decided on two wonderful names for our rescued pups," said Lana Gonzalez, manager of penguins and otters at Shedd Aquarium. "We look forward to telling the stories of these two pups with guests and inspiring the public to take action of species like sea otters to keep them around well into the future."
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