Rehabilitated Oiled Sea Otter of Facebook Fame Returns to the Sea

WATSONVILLE – A rehabilitated sea otter scurried out of her cage into the waves at Sunset State Beach this morning, successfully returning to her ocean home.

The California Department of Fish and Game (DFG) Office of Spill Prevention and Response (OSPR) and the Monterey Bay Aquarium had to postpone a previously scheduled release due to high winds and rough seas that would have made it difficult to track the otter. The sea otter, named “Olive” by one of her caregivers, was found Feb. 21 stranded on Sunset State Beach in Monterey Bay covered in oil from a natural seep.

“Olive has been a great patient. She has taught us a great deal and will likely teach us much more about the pollution-related problems sea otters face,” said DFG Wildlife Veterinarian Dave Jessup. “But, she
is now strong and as healthy as we can get her in captivity and she is ready to return home.”

The otter’s rehabilitation took place over a six-week period at DFG’s Marine Wildlife Veterinary Care and Research Center in Santa Cruz. Prior to the release, the Monterey Bay Aquarium’s veterinarian
surgically implanted a tracking device in the otter in order for biologists from the Aquarium to follow her and monitor her health.

“Olive has captured the interest and hearts of many people and we’re committed to tracking her progress back into the wild,” said Aquarium spokesperson Angela Hains.

The otter’s recovery was of particular concern to wildlife officials as the species is protected under both state and federal laws. There are only about 2,800 southern sea otters in California. Sea otters make a
significant contribution to the health of our oceans by helping to sustain vital kelp forests by feeding on the shellfish and other plant-eating species.

Olive gained quite a following after DFG created a Facebook page for her
(http://www.facebook.com/home.php#/pages/Olive-the-Oiled-Otter/53658228021?ref=nf).
The otter had nearly 900 fans sign up to follow her progress and post their good wishes for her recovery.

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-Kaiti, Volunteer Coordinator

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