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Olive Oil, a rehabilitated sea otter found covered in oil on Sunset State Beach, scurried out of her cage into the waves at Sunset State Beach this morning, successfully returning to her ocean home.

SANTA CRUZ - Olive, the otter who three years ago was found on a South County Beach covered in oil, is a new mother.

The sea otter was rescued from Sunset State Beach in February 2009 after being found covered in oil, likely from natural seep. She was treated at the state Department of Fish and Game's marine mammal care facility in Santa Cruz and later released back into wild. The recent birth of Olive's pup is a milestone in oiled wildlife rehabilitation as the first pup born to an oiled sea otter in California.

Olive was released back into the wild in April 2009 with a tracking device to monitor her progress.

Researchers determined in July that the otter was pregnant with what they believed to be her first pup. In early August, researchers brought her in for her first veterinary exam since her release. The veterinary team determined the animal was about half-term and gave her new flipper tags and released her back to Sunset State Beach.

On Aug. 19, Olive was spotted again in Capitola. Friday, researchers were alerted that Olive had resurfaced again in Capitola, this time swimming on her back clutching her newborn pup.

Initial observations show that Olive is an attentive mother, frequently grooming, nursing and holding her pup, said Eric Laughlin, spokesman for the Department of Fish and Game.


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"In recent months, she's been known to frequent a surf spot in Capitola known to locals as 'The Hook'," said Laird Henkel, manager of the Santa Cruz-based research center. "Olive has successfully re-integrated back into the wild, socializing with other otters and foraging normally."

Biologists will continue to monitor Olive and the pup from a safe distance to document her success in the wild while minimizing disturbances to the pair.

Fish and Game along with the Monterey Bay Aquarium and the U.S. Geological Survey study the ecology and population trends of the Southern sea otter, which is listed as a federally threatened species. Results of the 2012 sea otter survey show a population of 2,792, a small increase from the previous census, reversing the downward trend of the past few years.

Fans can continue to follow Otter on Facebook at facebook.com/Olivetheoiledotter.

Follow Sentinel reporter Jessica M. Pasko on Twitter: @jmpasko96