Do you remember orphaned otters Lady, Cowby and Piers? Named for where they were found (Ladysmith, Cowichan Bay and Piers Island), the trio was finally ready to be released back into the wild.
Video filmed and edited by Maude Rivard-Haustrate
Kelly Letendre, an air traffic controller who works in the tower at Vancouver International Airport, won the experience for his wife Julia and himself to join BC SPCA’s Wild Animal Rehabilitation Centre (ARC) team for the release in April.
“We’re nature lovers, avid hikers, and it was important to us to do what we can to protect nature,” Kelly says.
Lady (for Ladysmith) was orphaned after her mom was chased by a dog and dropped her, while Cowby (for Cowichan Bay) was found covered with more than one hundred ticks after his mom was scared off. Both otters were so young their eyes weren’t even open yet. Piers was found alone and calling for his mother on Piers Island near Swartz Bay – despite the efforts of the Wild ARC team, his mother couldn’t be found.
The trio required extremely specialized care so that they would have the survival skills they need to be released back into the wild, without becoming habituated to humans. Keeping the trio busy, fed, and clean was no small feat. The Wild ARC team had to be creative when providing them with new challenges and items to explore.
The chance to be there when the pair are released back into the wild is a rare and unique experience.
Marguerite Sans, Wild ARC’s senior wildlife rehabilitator, notes “we know we’ve done everything we can to prepare them for the wild, doing a release is one of the happiest days for our staff and volunteers.”
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Vancouver man wins rare chance to see otter trio released back into the wild
Nov. 2, 2017
A Vancouver man was otterly surprised to hear he’d won the chance to join BC SPCA’s Wild Animal Rehabilitation Centre (ARC) team when they release a trio of orphaned otters back into the wild next April.
As a part of the campaign, anyone could enter for the chance to be there when the otters are released next spring.
“I was shocked to hear the news – I was super happy, of course, but we don’t really win a lot of things,” says Kelly Letendre, an air traffic controller who works in the tower at Vancouver International Airport.
“Nature and conservancy have always been very important to me – the otters are absolutely adorable and it will be great to see them released into their natural habitat.”
Now more than six months old, the river otters – named Cowby, Lady and Piers for where they were found (Cowichan Bay, Ladysmith and Piers Island) – are growing and thriving.
Wild ARC does not allow public visitors, as their wild patients require extremely specialized care so that they can be released back into the wild without becoming habituated to humans, notes BC SPCA chief scientific officer Dr. Sara Dubois.
“The chance to be there when this cute trio is released back into the wild is a rare and unique experience and we’re so grateful to everyone who donated to help the unique wild patients we help at Wild ARC,” she says, adding that the campaign raised an amazing $17,000.
Letendre, who plans to attend the release with wife Julia Uebe, notes the couple are avid hikers and nature-lovers who are proud fur-parents to two adopted cats, Mimi and Never.
“My wife said she would never get a cat… now she can’t live without them and is absolutely in love with them – they’re family,” Letendre says.
They’re looking forward to the release next spring and seeing the otters discover their new home for the first time.
“It’s a more meaningful win than a flatscreen TV or something like that… it’s a really unique opportunity and we’re happy to have it.”
To stay up to date on the otters’ progress (and adorable antics), visit spca.bc.ca/crittercam.
Previous story: Last chance – You really otter get in on this!
Oct. 1, 2017
Now more than five months old, the trio of orphaned otters at the BC SPCA’s Wild Animal Rehabilitation Centre (Wild ARC) on Vancouver Island continue to grow and learn.
Named Cowby, Lady and Piers for where they were found (Cowichan Bay, Ladysmith and Piers Island), these three cuties are starting to physically mature and look more like teenagers.
“Now that their swimming skills are strong, these three have been learning about catching their food, with the introduction of live fish, fresh mussels covered with barnacles harvested by our volunteers and even live prawns,” says BC SPCA chief scientific officer Dr. Sara Dubois, noting the prawns are dangled on a bungee string in order to mimic how quickly they can propel themselves in the water.
“Catching them can be challenging, so hanging them on a bungee string mimics (the prawns’) escape mechanism in the wild if the otter pulls too hard or not enough, but this trio keeps proving that they’re exceptional learners and they mastered it pretty quickly.”
Although they are growing fast, that doesn’t mean they’re ready for life on their own just yet. The trio will be released back into the wild next spring, after continuing to learn and grow at Wild ARC this fall and winter.
“For the first time, the public has been invited to participate in a campaign that will give them a chance to help the patients in Wild ARC’s care and to be there when we release this otterly adorable trio back into the wild – but time is running out,” Dubois says.
“You can be there for these orphan otters. Don’t miss your chance! It’s a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity.”
The campaign runs until Oct. 31. Find out more at spca.bc.ca/orphanotters.
Otter cuteness overload at BC SPCA’s Wild ARC – Duo becomes trio
Aug. 8, 2017
The adorable factor has increased at the BC SPCA’s Wild Animal Rehabilitation Centre (ARC) on Vancouver Island with the addition of another baby river otter.
Piers, an orphan found alone and calling for his mother on Piers Island near Swartz Bay, has joined two other orphaned otters, Lady and Cowby, in Wild ARC care and he seems to be fitting right in.
“They’re doing great! Piers was a little cautious at first, but he has two fantastic guides in Lady and Cowby, who welcomed him instantly,” says BC SPCA chief scientific officer Dr. Sara Dubois.
The trio of heart-melting cuteness is learning and growing quickly, becoming the aquatic mammals they’re meant to be, developing their skills in the water and spending less time in the den. Now all fully weaned, Wild ARC staff will continue diversifying their diet, which includes various species of fish, meat and seafood as well as fresh, clean soil and pebbles, which otters often eat to aid the digestive process and for nutrients.
“Because they’re now exercising so much, they’re eating more than three kilograms of meat and fish a day,” Dubois says.
“Keeping them occupied and stimulated will now become the most important, to ensure they build the skills they’ll need once they’re released back into the wild.”
A campaign like no otter: Be there for a wild release
July 1, 2017
It is otterly possible that there is something cuter than two bewhiskered, guileless and oh-so-adorable baby otters – but what that might be is anyone’s guess.
Although Wild ARC does not name the more than 3,000 wildlife patients they treat annually, their two distinct personalities can easily be told apart by staff and the locations where these orphans were found have become their nicknames in care: Lady and Cowby, for Ladysmith and Cowichan Bay. So young their eyes weren’t even open yet, Lady was orphaned after her mom was chased by a dog and dropped her, while Cowby was found covered with more than one hundred ticks after his mom was scared off.
“They’re growing quickly – their eyes are open now and they’re starting to each solid food and explore their temporary habitat together,” says BC SPCA chief scientific officer Dr. Sara Dubois.
“For the first time, we’re inviting the public to participate in a campaign that will not only help the wild patients in care at the BC SPCA’s Wild Animal Rehabilitation Centre (ARC), but will give donors the chance to be there when we release Lady and Cowby back into the wild next spring, when they’re old enough.”
Wild ARC, located on Vancouver Island, does not allow public visitors, as their wild patients require extremely specialized care so that they can be released back into the wild without becoming habituated to humans. The chance to be there when the pair are released back into the wild is a rare and unique experience, Dubois notes, adding she is hoping animal lovers embrace the campaign enthusiastically.
“When you give $50 or more, you’ll be automatically entered into a contest to join me and Wild ARC staff next spring when we release Lady and Cowby. For full rules on entering, check out the website,” she says.
“It’s a win-win for animal lovers – your generous donations go toward helping the thousands of animals Wild ARC takes in each year and you get the chance to be a part of an experience you won’t be able to find anywhere else.”
Visit spca.bc.ca/orphanotters to participate in the campaign for updates on Lady’s and Cowby’s progress – and to view adorable photos of the otters as they grow and learn.