On August 1, the Vancouver Aquarium Marine Mammal Rescue Centre began treating an adult, male sea otter, which was recovered from the shores of the Quinault Indian Nation through the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service’s sea otter stranding program.

Despite intense treatment and around-the-clock care, the sea otter passed away, likely due to severe liver failure and cerebral edema, based on preliminary necropsy results.

Although we knew that the risks were high when the sea otter was rescued in poor body condition, including several significant injuries and obvious metabolic compromise, we had hoped that the sea otter would regain its strength, despite a steady decrease in appetite and condition. He received the very best medical care available to him from a team of clinicians across the Pacific Northwest, but was unable to recover.

The rescue effort was a collaborative effort with the provincial Animal Health Centre and Fisheries and Oceans Canada, and demonstrates the incredible amount of teamwork that goes into saving the life of an injured marine animal. Leading up to his arrival to the Vancouver Aquarium, the Aquarium’s veterinarian Dr. Martin Haulena worked with U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, Point Defiance Zoo & Aquarium, Washington Department of Fish and Wildlife and the Northwest Marine Mammal Stranding Network, who provided immediate care to the sea otter for three weeks prior to his transfer for long-term treatment.

A variety of lab studies are currently underway, and additional results are expected in the coming weeks. These animals are excellent sentinels of ecosystem health and information garnered from the post-mortem will be invaluable in further evaluating sea otter population health risks.

For the past eight days, the Vancouver Aquarium Marine Mammal Rescue Centre’s team of staff and volunteers provided 24-hour care and intense treatment to help save the sea otter. In 2011, Vancouver Aquarium’s Marine Mammal Rescue Centre rescued over 150 stranded marine mammals. If you see a stranded animal, please call the Vancouver Aquarium’s Marine Mammal Rescue Centre at 604.258.SEAL (7325) for immediate assistance.

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