That’s right, yesterday was the Inaugural Oiled Southern Sea Otter Care and Response for Veterinarians Training Course. Well, I know Mike likes acronyms, but . . . . perhaps we’ll just stick with Oiled Sea Otter Vet Training Course.
As I said, yesterday the Marine Wildlife Veterinary Care and Research Center in Santa Cruz hosted the first ever OWCN training course for veterinarians in sea otter care. With the help of Drs. Melissa Miller, Mike Murray, and Dave Jessup, we trained a dozen California (and one Washington) wildlife vets in the basics of oil spill response and clinical medicine of southern sea otters.
Sea otters are unique marine mammals for a number of reasons, both regulatory and biological, so they warrant a day all to themselves. After covering some background on spill response, we heard about clinical medicine, anesthesia, diseases, and washing of sea otters from the world’s experts in the field (all of whom maintain close relationships with OWCN).
Dr. Miller, who has conducted literally thousands of necropsies on sea otters, had some specimens for us to poke and prod. She gave us a crash course on the differences one might see when examining an otter killed by a shark bite compared to one killed by a boat strike (both all too common for southern sea otters), and gave us some great tips on what to look for when examining a living otter. Dr. Murray then demonstrated some clinical techniques using the carcasses. Being veterinarians, we had no problem going directly from the necropsy lab to the kitchen for lunch!
We also got a tour of the “otter taj mahal,” as we like to call it, by Drs. Jessup and Ziccardi, who designed the facility to care for, wash, and hold over 100 sea otters in the event of an oil spill. Although the facility has been around for a while now, yesterday’s course was an important step in increasing California’s readiness to care for sea otters affected by petroleum spills. The participating veterinarians were incredibly enthusiastic and asked us great questions that are going to help us refine and clarify sea otter response protocols.
The MWVCRC staff, including its new director, Laird Henkel, did a great job welcoming us and making sure everything ran smoothly. No one wants there to be oiled sea otters, but as of yesterday, we are all confident that best achievable care just got better.