Eight tagged sea otter (Enhydra lutris) pups in central Prince William Sound, Alaska, weighed 6–15 kg at the time of separation from their mother. Four pups weighing 15 kg were able to forage successfully on their own. Three pups weighing ≤9 kg had negligible chances of survival and apparently were abandoned by sick females. Abandonment of a pup may reduce the burden on a sick female, enabling recovery and subsequent reproduction. One of the three sick females that abandoned a pup in this study recovered and pupped again. Abandonment of pups should occur most often in populations where females are stressed by poor food resources. Reassociation with a previous offspring, as observed once in this study, also may occur most frequently in food-limited populations where reproductive failures are most common and pup survivorship is significantly increased by additional maternal assistance.