The Georgia Aquarium family is mourning the loss of southern sea otter, Gracie. Just a week shy of her 20th birthday, she was the oldest southern sea otter at Georgia Aquarium, and one of the oldest southern sea otters in human care. Recently, Gracie’s health began to rapidly decline as a result of her advanced age. Surrounded by those that love her most and cared for her over the last decade, the difficult decision was made to humanely euthanize her.

Over the last several months, especially the holidays, animal care staff were by her side to provide all that she may need. Many of our training and veterinary staff were on-site during the Thanksgiving and Christmas holidays to provide uninterrupted care to Gracie alongside all the animals at Georgia Aquarium.

Prior to opening in 2005, Gracie arrived at Georgia Aquarium alongside male sea otter, Oz. She was a favorite among guests, staff, and volunteers that created more than a decade of memories with her. She easily captured the attention of all that interacted with her. Her playful spinning through the habitat and snacking on clams and mussels (her chosen food of the typical sea otter diet) endeared her to many. While her name came from a character in the John Steinbeck novel, “Tortilla Flat”, Gracie Montez, one of her nicknames sums her up: “The Perfect One.” 

“We were privileged to have Gracie with us since the opening of Georgia Aquarium and her longevity is a true testament to the excellent care she received throughout her lifetime by all those who cared for her,” said Dennis Christen, senior director of zoological operations, animal training. “Her decade with us provided our animal care and veterinary staff with the ability to conduct advanced monitoring, and to learn vital information about her, southern sea otters and other small marine mammals.” Christen also leads the team that cared for Gracie in her eleven years at Georgia Aquarium. Throughout her eleven years with us, many of Gracie’s caretakers remained the same.Prior to opening in 2005, Gracie arrived at Georgia Aquarium alongside male sea otter, Oz. She was a favorite among guests, staff, and volunteers that created more than a decade of memories with her. She easily captured the attention of all that interacted with her. Her playful spinning through the habitat and snacking on clams and mussels (her chosen food of the typical sea otter diet) endeared her to many. While her name came from a character in the John Steinbeck novel, “Tortilla Flat”, Gracie Montez, one of her nicknames sums her up: “The Perfect One.”

She was found abandoned in Cayucos, Calif. at two weeks old, a familiar fate to southern sea otter pups, as they face more dangers in the wild. Gracie was rehabilitated at Monterey Bay Aquarium’s Sea Otter Research and Conservation program and released eight months later into Morro Bay, Calif. Unable to forage on her own, she was found two days later, dehydrated and underweight. At that point, the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service deemed her non-releasable and the search for a forever home began.

Gracie and Gina

Gracie received remarkable care following her rescue in 1997 at several accredited zoological facilities. The commitment to care and marine mammal expertise that she received through every stage of her life contributed to Gracie’s longevity and we are grateful for all of the time we had with her. Georgia Aquarium animal care staff provided specialized care for Gracie in the last several months as her mobility and health reached the geriatric phase. This care was provided in a behind the scenes animal area which was best suited for her and allowed staff to assist with her grooming, changes in her diet, and providing more rest.

Loss is never easy. Gracie touched so many with her life, her rescue story, and her uniqueness. She inspired many to care about her species and the environments they inhabit.

We will miss our Perfect One, immensely.

Sea otters are currently “Endangered” on the International Union for Conservation of Nature (IUCN) Red List and face threats such as entanglement in fishing nets, oil spills, and shark attacks. Sea otters’ life span is estimated to be 15 to 20 years for females and 10 to 15 years for males in human care. The average lifespan is approximately 10 to 12 years in their natural habitat. To learn more about southern sea otters and how to preserve this incredible species, please visit Georgia Aquarium’s Animal Guide.