Humans taught these orphaned baby otters how to survive. Now they’re ready, video shows

Two baby otter sisters that were rescued after a car hit and killed their mother at the NC coast have been released into the wild after months of training and care.

The North Carolina Zoo on Monday released a 23-second video of the North American Otter pups being released from a carrier, sniffing about in tall grass and then scurrying toward water in Hertford County. The county borders the Chowan River, which flows into the Albemarle Sound at the coast.

The pups were 6 weeks old when a passerby found them near Engelhard, according to a news release Monday by the North Carolina Zoo. Engelhard is in Hyde County, which borders the Pamlico Sound.

Workers from the North Carolina Wildlife Resources Commission took the pups to the North Carolina Aquarium on Roanoke Island, which is in Dare County on the Outer Banks. Staff cared for them until the otters were moved to the North Carolina Zoo’s Valerie H. Schindler Wildlife Rehabilitation Center.

Center staff spent four months teaching the otters basic survival skills their mother would have shown them, including how to fish, according to the NC Zoo news release. Human contact was limited, to increase their survival upon release, according to the news release.

The pups transitioned from formula to solid food before learning to catch fish, according to zoo spokeswoman Debbie Fuchs, the News & Observer reported in June.

North American river otters almost vanished by the early 1900s because of “unregulated trapping, water pollution and wetlands destruction,” according to the news release.

In the 1990s, the North Carolina Wildlife Resources Commission moved 267 river otters from the coast to the mountains to boost their population there. The state’s otter population “is now considered fully restored and abundant throughout North Carolina,” according to the NC Zoo’s news release.

Joe Marusak: 704-358-5067; @jmarusak