Sea otter Walter (better known as “Wally”) met a companion this week as he was introduced to Tanu, one of the rescued sea otters at the Vancouver Aquarium Marine Science Centre.

Wally was rescued as a badly injured animal who was blinded by a gunshot blast. After more than a year of treatment and rehabilitation, he is well enough to begin socializing with other sea otters, which is an important step in his long-term recovery. After some playful splashing and interaction, Tanu and Wally appear to be getting along just fine.

Sea otters at the Vancovuer Aquarium

Wally and Tanu size each other up upon first meeting.

Walter was rescued on Oct. 18, 2013 after members of the public reported seeing a lethargic and uncharacteristically approachable sea otter on the shoreline of Tofino, British Columbia. He was brought to the Vancouver Aquarium Marine Mammal Rescue Centre where Dr. Haulena discovered he was riddled with shotgun pellets.

As a result of the shotgun blast, Walter was blinded, had a fractured flipper and was unable to groom himself, which can be fatal for sea otters as they rely on their coats for warmth. Since his rescue, Dr. Haulena and the veterinary team at the Rescue Centre have removed a number of pellets, performed multiple surgeries on his injured flipper, and treated severe dental injuries that resulted from the shotgun blast. Because he is blind, Walter is unable to forage for food and must be hand fed. He was deemed non-releasable by Fisheries and Oceans Canada and the Aquarium has provided a caring, long-term home.

Vancouver Aquarium Rescue Centre Sea Otters

Socialization is an important next step in Walter’s care.

Wally is one of four resident sea otters at the Vancouver Aquarium, which includes Elfin, Katmai and Tanu, all orphaned sea otters from Alaska.

There’s still a few days left to experience the Aquarium’s Celebrate Sea Otters spotlight with special programming including sea otter feeds, sea otter enrichment sessions and the Life in a Kelp Forest dive show. The spotlight is on until November 11.

Vancouver Aquarium is a self-supporting, non-profit society and does not receive ongoing funds to provide around-the-clock care for its rescued and rehabilitated animals. To make a contribution to help Wally, please visit

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9 Responses

  1. Renno


    I saw the sea otters were covered by some small blankets when they were floating in the water? Why they need the blankets? For keeping the otters warm or else?

    Also I saw the otters held strings to sleep in the water. Why they like to hold the strings? How does the otter balance itself when they are sleeping in the water?

    • Vancouver Aquarium

      Good questions. We often introduce new items into the sea otter habitats for enrichment. These can include things like balls, ice treats, string, rope or blankets.

      Sea otters spend almost their whole lives in the water so they are excellent swimmers. You often see them “holding hands” when they are sleeping, this helps to prevent them from floating away too far from the group. In the wild, sea otters may use the kelp as well to help them stay positioned when asleep.

  2. Michelle French

    I watch Sea Rescue every Saturday. It was great to see Wally’s story on last weekend’s episode.

    • Vancouver Aquarium

      Hi Russ, yes unfortunately Wally is totally blind due to the numerous gunshot pellets that were found in his face and body. After his extensive treatment and care, Wally is doing well and has adapted to his new home. We are glad to see him now socializing with other sea otters as part of his rehabilitation.


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