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.

Ever wonder how researchers are able to safely capture a sea otter without it swimming away?  After many years, researchers have developed several methods for capturing sea otters.  The method used depends upon the circumstances. 

The thermal needs of sea otters combined with their tendency to bite and chew their way through nearly any material requires that they are housed in specially outfitted kennels for transport or triage.  Below you will find plans with pictures of the best practices for building a sea otter kennel that will keep the animal cool and safe while being transported or waiting for medical attention. 

Sea otters have the densest fur of any mammal and, unlike most other marine mammals, replace their fur throughout the year instead of undergoing a seasonal molt (Tarasoff 1974; Williams and Allen et al., 1995). Sea otters have guard hairs and many fine under-hairs that are microscopically interlocked in order to trap air and thus provide waterproofing, thermal insulation, and buoyancy.

In addition to severe impacts on an animal’s ability to float and stay warm, petroleum compounds can impact oiled wildlife, including sea otters, in many other ways. These effects are best summarized by organ system.

How do you know when a sea otter’s pelage has been fully restored? We know that sea otter’s rely on a unique form of thermal insulation among marine mammals. After being oiled and then washed, the natural oils that prevent the hairs from tangling and getting fouled with salts are washed away along with the oil.

It can sometimes be challenging to determine whether a sea otter has been oiled! Various other materials may be foul sea otter fur and this page describes how to distinguish between oil and other substances as well as how to collect oil samples.

Sea otters are wily animals! For the safety of the animal and the safety of the staff, special techniques have been developed for restraining sea otters for transport, quick medical procedures such as blood draws, or for routine veterinary assessments.

Have you ever wondered how researchers can identify an individual sea otter from shore?  Sea otters that are part of a research program, strand and undergo rehabilitation at The Monterey Bay Aquarium, or who are captured for any reason are given flipper tags with a unique color, placement, and number combination that allow them to be indentified using a spotting scope from shore.