In early June of 2016, Wild ARC received its first orphaned river otter of the season. This young female was found in a dog park in Duncan and was in distress as she was following people and vocalizing. An attempt was made to reunite her with her family, but there was no sign of the mother or her siblings. Though she was a little dehydrated, her body was in good condition and she had no injuries. Staff at Wild ARC monitored her condition closely and ensured her specialized dietary needs were met.
In early July 2016, a second juvenile river otter was brought into care at Wild ARC. This little male was found on a beach in Victoria covered in burrs and unable to move. A volunteer member of the Wildlife Transport Team helped to contain and transport the young pup to the centre where he was treated for wounds on his face and paws. He was quickly introduced to the young female otter and the two became fast friends. A few weeks later, a third orphaned male river otter was brought to the centre from downtown Victoria. Once he was properly assessed by staff, he was introduced to the other two others and the trio began on their long road to release.
It is essential that the natural history of the animals in care at Wild ARC be replicated as closely as possible. In the wild, river otters are cared for by their mother who spends up to a year showing her pups how to swim, fish, hunt, and find shelter. The three otters were housed in the relatively new pool pen facility where they had pools to learn how to swim, forage and hunt.
The expert Wild ARC staff provided a variety of enrichment items to keep these intelligent creatures busy and engaged, while also providing the opportunity to develop the skills they will need to survive in the wild. Items like rotting logs and mossy forest debris were regularly brought into the pens for the otters to explore and food was never offered at the same times or in a predictable manner, so the otters constantly had to search for food on their own.
River otters are very social creatures and it was wonderful that these three had each other to engage in their full range of social behaviours. Limiting human contact with the wild patients at the centre is very important for their successful rehabilitation and to discourage habituation.
The trio thrived in care and in April 2017, were released into an isolated wilderness area with plenty of space and free of human interference. Spring is a great time to release wild animals like these, as the weather is more forgiving and there is an abundance of food sources which will help them transition into foraging and hunting on their own.
It is an incredible privilege to return a wild animal back to its natural habitat – stay tuned for a major announcement this month about our new batch of 2017 orphaned otters on the Wild ARC Facebook page!
The British Columbia Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals is a not-for-profit organization reliant on public donations. Our mission is to protect and enhance the quality of life for domestic, farm and wild animals in B.C.