Sea otter fun & games

This week, I had the great privilege of working with Dr. Mike Murray of the Monterey Bay Aquarium.  Dr. Mike is a world-renowned expert in sea otter care, and I’ve been hoping for an opportunity to learn from him.  Well, I got my wish and it was amazing!

We had four sea otter procedures to do, and while we worked I kept up a barrage of sea otter medicine questions.  I learned a huge amount in just a couple of days.  And, most importantly, I got some great hands-on experience.   I have done a lot of work with other otter species, and some of them can be quite challenging to bleed, so I was amazed at the “generosity” of sea otters.

Here I am amazed at the ease of blood collection in sea otters.

We anesthetized three animals and one of those got a transmitter implant.  Dr. Mike did the surgery while I monitored anesthesia with Marissa, the veterinary technician.  Although Dr. Mike is a humble guy, don’t be fooled . . . . he is a great surgeon!  This was evident not just from watching him work, but from seeing the young otter the next day.  He looked as if nothing at all had happened.  He’ll spend another few weeks with his mom, and then he’ll be weaned and finally released into the wild — back to his home.

Dr. Mike getting blood from the leg.

And speaking of release, I also got to accompany Karl on an otter release.  A female otter pup who was reared with a surrogate, or “foster mom,” was released yesterday and I went along to watch the happy event.  Karl will be out on the water most of the daylight hours for the next week or so, monitoring her and making sure she is doing okay.  If she’s not foraging effectively, he may need to recapture her and keep her at the Aquarium for a little while to put some weight on.  Hopefully, though, she’ll figure out her new environment within a couple of days and start learning how to forage.  It’s tough to be a sea otter pup out there in the wide world without your mom, but Karl and his crew do their very best to get them ready for the challenge.

Karl getting ready to release an otter pup.

I had a fantastic time with everyone at the Monterey Bay Aquarium, and I am grateful that we have such skilled people around who are committed to help if we ever have a spill involving otters.

Christine

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