The Story of Olive the Otter

This story is an example of oiled otter rehabilitation at work! This is Olive, a sea otter that stranded with oiled pelage and was rescued, washed, rehabilitated and successfully released by OWCN member organizations.

A young, female, Southern sea otter was reported on Sunset State Beach, in Santa Cruz County, California on 21 February 2009. This live stranded otter was heavily oiled, emaciated, and lethargic, necessitating human intervention. An experienced marine mammal rescue team from The Marine Mammal Center was dispatched to retrieve the oiled otter. 04imgolivesmaller

The otter was initially examined and stabilized at the Monterey Bay Aquarium, then transferred to the Marine Wildlife Veterinary Care and Research Center in Santa Cruz for washing and rehabilitation. The oil on the otter’s fur was thick and tarry (later it was determined to have come from a natural seep), and required pre-treatment with olive oil to loosen the tarry oil before washing with diluted Dawn dish soap. The otter was there-after called Olive, in reference to her olive oil rub-down.


Olive received round-the-clock care at the MWVCRC for several days after her arrival, and required several months of less-intensive care as she re-gained body weight and improved her overall health. She provided a chance to test some recently-developed oiled otter post-washing protocols, and Olive’s successful, speedy recovery indicated that the protocols are beneficial. They will be used to treat oiled otters in the future.


In early April 2009, when her weight was back to normal and veterinarians cleared her with a clean bill of health, Olive was deemed ready for release. She was outfitted with an intra-abdominal VHF radio transmitter and colored flipper tags so she could be identified and monitored after her release.


On April 7, 2009 Olive was released back to the wild at Sunset State Beach. Since her release she has been regularly monitored by CDFW biologists, and appears to have smoothly re-adjusted to being back in the wild.

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Olive was re-captured in July 2012 for a health examination. Her blood values and physical examination were consistent with other healthy, wild otters, and it was determined that she was pregnant (the first known pregnancy). Olive was seen with her first pup in September 2012, and was seen with a second pup in July 2013. She has proven to be an excellent mother. She will continue to be tracked to monitor her health and reproductive status. For the latest update on Olive, please visit her Facebook page.

6imgolivePhotograph courtesy of Joe Tomoleoni