A popular female sea otter who served as a surrogate mother to several rescued baby sea otters at Monterey Bay Aquarium died Sunday after a battle with chronic health problems, according to aquarium officials.
Gidget, who was 10 years old, suffered from osteoarthritis in her hips, and her condition declined rather quickly over the past week, even as the aquarium's veterinary teams tried to alter the course of her illness, the aquarium said.
"Gidget touched millions of people with her beauty, charm and an exuberance of mischief," veterinarian Dr. Mike Murray said in a statement. "She is an example of why we do what we do for the animals in our care and for their wild kin."
Gidget was found stranded on Morro Strand State Beach in San Luis Obispo County in October 2008 as a 10-week-old pup, the aquarium said. She was rescued by volunteers from The Marine Mammal Center and a California Department of Fish and Wildlife biologist, and taken to the aquarium for care.
After a stint at the Aquarium of the Pacific in Long Beach, she was returned to the Monterey facilities in January 2013 and became one of the otter exhibit's most popular attractions. She also reared four rescued pups there before being retired from those duties for health reasons, the aquarium said.
A necropsy is planned to learn more about the exact cause of Gidget's death.