Species: North American River Otter (Lontra canadensis)

Sex: Male

Diet: Capelin, Lake Smelt, and Feline Diet

Arrival Date: 11/19/2012

Estimated Age Upon Arrival: 7-9 Months

Walle’s Tale:

Walle was raised with a caretaker on a boat from the time he was a pup to juvenile status. As a juvenile, it was recognized that Walle’s care was far more intense than a regular household pet would require. It was assumed that if Walle was put back out into the wild, he would resume life as a normal otter. This was not the case with Walle. The FWC called CMA about Walle, asking if he could live out his life with our other otters under the care of our training team. He has successfully acclimated to his new environment. Our training team has been able to hand feed, touch and interact in the exhibit with Walle on a daily basis.

River otters are often times mistaken for sea otters, but why? River otters do live in and around both fresh and salt water, however there are easy ways to identify the two species apart. First, river otters are commonly seen moving in and out of the water and are able to easily move around on land, versus sea otters that spend almost their entire life in water and are clumsy on land. Second, when in the water river otters commonly swim belly down, versus sea otters who swim belly up. Third, river otters are much smaller than their cousin the sea otter. Lastly, the paws of river otters and sea otters are webbed but the paws of a river otter are more circular shaped to aid in land locomotion versus seas otters that have webbing all the way to the toes to aid in water locomotion.



At noon on Sunday, November 13, 2011, Clearwater Marine Aquarium received a phone call about a North American River Otter lying on the side of the road, which appeared to have been hit by a car.  The phone call came in from a citizen who did not hit the otter, yet stopped to assist.  After the call was received, Jaime Alverez left the aquarium to head out to New Port Richey where the otter was.  The people who called had placed a blanket under the otter and Jamie, equipped with a crate was able to grab the blanket and pull the otter into the crate, for transport to the aquarium.


At that point the otter’s respirations were very abnormal, she did not appear to be using her back end and she had blood in her urine as well as blood coming from her nose.  While at CMA the staff continued contact with our consulting veterinarian, Dr. Walsh using SKYPE to allow Dr. Walsh to view the physical needs and appearance of the otter.  It was assessed that we needed to provide 24-hour care administering fluids and medication, and our immediate concern was to ensure that she was stable.

When the otter first came in, we thought it was a male; therefore, we named the otter Richey.  Upon further care, we recognized that it was a girl!!!  We then immediately changed the name to Portia – another play on New Port Richey.

Around the clock care was provided and by Monday November 14th, the otter made a  tremendous comeback.  She was taking whole fish by midnight and drinking a water solution from a dog dish on her own.  Portia started moving around quite well, enabling us to transfer her from one crate to the next for cleaning purposes.  The blood in her urine was diminishing.

Tuesday November 15th and Wednesday November 16th proved to also be fascinating recovery days.  There was no blood seen in the urine, and the staff fed whole fish and gave fluids through the crate.  We only moved her when necessary for cleaning purposes.  Portia was using her legs well and was vocalizing and standing up on her back end at times.

Thursday November 17th, Dr. Walsh and team came to CMA for their weekly visits and were impressed with the remarkable recovery.  At that point, we called Clinic for the Rehabilitation of Wildlife (CROW) in Sanibel Island, Florida, to assist with moving Portia onto the next phase in recovery.  She was transported to CROW on Thursday evening where she did quite well during the transport.  She was given shrimp, herring and mullet as soon as she was settled in her bed at CROW.  Portia will continue the rest of her rehab at CROW in Sanibel until she is able to be released.

Our efforts from day one were to be able to rescue, rehabilitate and release Portia if able.  While rehabilitating, we did not form bonds or relationships with Portia, but rather assisted with care as necessary, which of course is a very different mindset from our resident animals.  If it weren’t for the combined efforts of the citizen who called in the otter, the trainers, our vet team and our neighboring rescue facilities, Portia may have not been so lucky.  We are proud to be a part of another success story.

Posted in Animals, Otter

ernieClearwater Marine Aquarium has been faced with an unusual start to 2011 as we have officially rescued our 13th otter pup. The first of the pups, a non-releasable boy, came in February 11th weighing just over 3lbs and  dehydrated and reluctant to nurse from the bottle. After a couple of nights he quickly learned to take from the bottle and has been thriving ever since. The pup, now named Ernie, will remain a resident of CMA and is going to be introduced to Oscar once he gets bigger.

After Ernie’s rescue, the calls started to flood in and at times CMA was receiving 2 pups at once. We knew with the rate that the pups were coming in we were going to have to lean on other facilities to help us out. The pups were rescued, brought to CMA for triage and then sent off to other rehab facilities such as C.R.O.W. (Clinic for Rehabilitation of Wildlife) at Sanibel Island. Unfortunately, two pups were too critical and sadly passed, but the other 10 may be candidates for release in the future.

North American River Otters generally breed during the winter and give birth in early spring. Pups are born in dens and are completely dependent on their mother as they are born hairless, toothless and blind. They are weaned at approximately 3 months old, but often stay with mom until the following spring when her next litter is born. During that time, mom teaches the pups various survival skills such as how to hunt and swim. We are not sure why so many pups have become orphaned this year but we do know that the area in which they live has become very over-developed leading to habitat destruction. Once their habitat is destroyed, an otter has to find a new home range which often forces them to cross roads to hunt for food and many end up getting hit by cars.

Check out “Making Waves”, CMA’s Speaker Series on April 21st. “All About Otters”

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Posted in CMA Events, Otter