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River Otter Update


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Baby River Otter at WildCare. Photo by Melanie Piezza
Photo by Melanie Piazza

Patients Like Her Need Your Help!

What does it take to nurse a baby otter back from the brink of death?

As with human medical care, it takes round-the-clock care, oxygen, fluids, antibiotics and more. For a baby otter, it also requires feedings every three hours, heat and warmth, and once she was feeling better, a whole lotta fish.

Though we have a large volunteer staff, the hospital runs on money, and we could use your help. Click here to support our round-the-clock staff as they save the lives of the animals that share our world, and send them back to their homes in the wild.

Click to donate now!

Patient #0681's Story

spacer2.gif Baby otter being held
  Photo by Alison Hermance
  Otter being bottle-fed. Photo by Alison Hermance
  Photo by Alison Hermance
  Baby River Otter on scale. Photo by Alison Hermance

You may remember the orphaned baby River Otter WildCare's Wildlife Hospital admitted in late May 2012.

She and her family had been seen playing in and around Corte Madera Creek for several weeks, but when Greenbrae residents heard desperate distress calls instead of the otters' usual chirps and whistles, they grabbed their kayak and paddled toward the sounds.

To their horror they found one of the baby otters drowning! Mother otters don't teach their pups to swim until they are 3 - 4 months old, and this little one was much too young to be in deep water.

They pulled her from the water and called the Marin Humane Society to rush her to WildCare. Admitted as patient #681, this baby was hypothermic and risked pneumonia from her cold plunge. She was very weak and her little body barely survived the ordeal. Two other siblings were found later, drowned and beyond help. Their mother was never found.

In the Wildlife Hospital, our supportive care, including heat, oxygen, subcutaneous fluids and antibiotics, slowly revived the little patient and by Monday she was alert and very feisty. Medical staff bottle-fed her every three hours (even through the night!) and she continued to improve. Click here to view video of this baby being given her bottle.

Because she needed a specialized habitat that WildCare's urban facility can't provide, we transfered the little otter to Tahoe Wildlife Care. She remained there for the next months, and grew up healthy, but without an otter companion as no other River Otters were admitted this summer.

But then a few weeks ago, Sonoma Wildlife Rescue admitted a young otter, whom they placed in their newly-constructed otter habitat. The video "A Tale of Two Otters" shows these two little orphans meeting for the first time.

These gorgeous animals will remain at Sonoma Wildlife until they are old enough to be released!

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River Otter checking things out. Photo by Paola Bouley  
Photo by Paola Bouley  
A family group. Photo by Paola Bouley  
Photo by Paola Bouley  
River Otters at Las Gallinas. Photo by Trish Carney  
Photo by Trish Carney   trishcarney.com  

Otter Ecology

River otters are comfortable living in and around any kind of water, from lake to marsh to ocean, but they require fresh water for drinking and to rinse the salt from their thick pelts. Lontra canadensis eats all sorts of fish, crabs, shellfish, crayfish, water birds and the occasional bush-full of berries! We find fish scales, crab shells, small bones, feathers and crayfish leavings in their scat in Marin.

Otters are water acrobats, and seem able to use water in the same way birds use air – as a fluid, three-dimensional medium for their gymnastic antics. They’re well known to enjoy playing, even as adults, and will slide down sand dunes, snow slides, and across ice with every appearance of doing it just for fun. Perhaps that’s a big part of the reason humans enjoy seeing them so much; most wildlife adults appear too intent on the business of foraging, caring for young and seeking refuge to spend much time playing.

Otters are shy of humans. They have a remarkably keen sense of smell and good eyesight and hearing. When they see or hear us, they disappear into the water, and are able to swim underwater for minutes before coming up for air.

Otter mothers are extremely secretive about their natal dens, and do not defecate anywhere near them, though groups of otters sharing den areas will “spraint” (otter scat) all around them. Mothers keep their infant otters safe in the natal den until they’re old enough to learn to swim. Surprisingly, neither swimming nor catching fish is instinctive with baby otters.

Learn more about otters and the River Otter Ecology Project in our April 2012 eNews.

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Baby Western Gray Squirrel spacer2.gif
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In the Wildlife Hospital

At WildCare, a River Otter is an unusual patient, but an orphaned baby brought cold and shivering to our Wildlife Hospital is a common occurrence. Squirrels, rabbits, ducklings, songbirds — every year we treat hundreds of wild orphans and our dedicated care gives them a second chance at life in the wild.

You can help! Your generous donation now will ensure that WildCare's doors are always open to help these neediest of patients!


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