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Sea otter fighting for his life after being shot in the face and body

A veterinary team at the Vancouver Aquarium is working around the clock to save a severely injured sea otter, who is suffering from gunshot wounds to his head and body.

“He’s in extremely rough shape and I’m very concerned about him,” says Dr. Martin Haulena, Vancouver Aquarium veterinarian. “X-rays show that he has been shot with a shot gun and there are pellets in his face and body. Due to the gunshot wounds, he is currently blind and one of his flippers sustained a serious injury. Although his situation is grave, we are doing everything we can to save this animal.”

The otter was found by members of the public along the shoreline of Tofino last week. People who saw him told the aquarium that he remained in the same location for a long time, he failed to flee when they approached him, and he appeared to have a serious injuries to his flippers.

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It is not known at this time why he was shot, but he was injured by a shotgun.

Staff from the Rescue Centre were able to retrieve him on October 18 and admitted him, where he is currently receiving non-stop care. Veterinarians say the team is working to stabilize the animal, but diagnostic tests have revealed that his condition is very serious.

Haulena and the team have already amputated part of his right hind flipper, which was fractured. Due to the extent of his injuries he cannot effectively groom himself, which is essential for a sea otter’s thermoregulation so the team is helping to stabilize his temperature by towel- and blow-drying him.

“We are treating the sea otter with fluids, pain medication and antibiotics, and we’re hopeful that he will recover,” says Haulena. “He likely would have died as a result of his human-inflicted injuries, so we’re glad that other humans intervened and reported him, so that we can help give him a fighting chance.”

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The injured otter. Credit: Sergio Magro / Global News.
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The injured otter. Credit: Sergio Magro / Global News.
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The injured sea otter. Credit: Linda Aylesworth / Global News.
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The injured otter. Credit: Linda Aylesworth / Global News.
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The injured otter. Credit: Linda Aylesworth / Global News.

Some sea otter populations are endangered. During the 1700s and 1800s, sea otters were hunted to extinction along the B.C. coast. They were downlisted to threatened in 1996 by the Committee of the Status of Endangered Wildlife in Canada and through the B.C. Wildlife Act. They are currently protected by the federal government’s Canada Fisheries Act, and the BC Wildlife Act.

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The Vancouver Aquarium asks the public to report marine mammals that appear to be in distress by contacting its Marine Mammal Rescue Centre at 604 258 SEAL (7325).

Donations made to the Vancouver Aquarium Marine Mammal Rescue Centre directly support the veterinary team’s ability to rescue distressed marine animals and provide the necessary medical care that allows the Rescue Centre to safely release rehabilitated animals.

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