These photos of sea otter twins may be heartwarming, but the likelihood that both pups are still alive and well is slim.
While California-based photographer Mike Baird captured a striking series of images of a mother otter caring for her newborn twins, only one of the baby sea otters is believed to have survived, according to a July 1 update on SeaOtters.com.
Photographed in Morro Bay, Calif., on June 24, the pair of pups were likely born a few days earlier, Baird notes on Flickr.
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As seen in Baird's photo series, a mother otter often keeps her pup above water, supporting her offspring on her torso while floating on her back. However, with a second pup, the mother is not able to devote enough care to each of the baby sea otters.
Michelle Staedler, who works as a sea otter research coordinator at the Monterey Bay Aquarium, visited the newborns in Morro Bay last week to study their behavior. Though she noted to Wired that the mother appeared to be very attentive to her sea otter twins, she added that both surviving was unlikely.
"We know it’s kind of inevitable. A mom cannot raise two pups," Staedler told the magazine.
Though the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service lists the southern sea otter -- one of three recognized subspecies -- as threatened, the sea otter species is classified as endangered on the IUCN Red List of Threatened Species due to population decline.
See several of Baird's sea otter twins photos in the gallery above, and click over to his Flickr site to see the full series.