Rescued Blind Sea Otter Rehabilitated at Vancouver Aquarium

First Posted: Jan 08, 2014 03:42 AM EST

A blind sea otter rescued from the shores of Tofino, is adjusting well in his new home-the Vancouver Aquarium after undergoing months of care and rehabilitation.

Walter, the sea otter, was blinded by a shotgun blast close to Tofino, British Columbia. A call to the Department of Fisheries and Oceans' hotline led to his rescue.

Walter was then shifted to the Vancouver Aquarium Marine Mammal Rescue Centre. A detailed examination revealed that he had been shot in the head, which had blinded him, and had suffered multiple injuries and was barely clinging to life. Walter was rescued in October 2013.

During the 11 weeks of life saving treatment and rehabilitation at the rescue centre, Walter underwent multiple surgeries. The marine mammal rescue team at the Vancouver Aquarium was led by Dr. Martin Haulena.

"Walter was in terrible body condition," said Dr. Haulena said to The Globe and Mail. "He was blind. He had a very serious flipper injury. Basically, this was an animal in dire straits."

After the rehab program, Walter will remain at the Aquarium with three other rescued sea otters namely Katmai, Tanu and Elfin. The three otters are also receiving care at the facility.

Currently, Walter is in isolation as the team is unsure of how he will interact with the other rescued sea otters.  It is necessary for Walter to feel safe and comfortable in his new habitat.

There is a conflict of sorts between humans and sea otters in Alsaka, British Columbia and up till California. In the early 20th century sea otters in British Columbia were wiped out by fur trade. A reintroduction of the animals led to them thriving in the region and has led to some changes in the ecosystem, not to everyone's liking.

The otters and the humans are competing for the marine life like shell fish in the area. Don Hall, fisheries program manager for the Nuu-chah-nulth First Nation said, "This is a complicated issue. They definitely are posing a problem for harvesters of shellfish and they have definitely changed the feeding habits of the Nuu-chah-nulth. ... If you like eating crabs and clams and urchins - well, they are not present any more in the areas where sea otters have been reintroduced." 

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