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Injured Sea Otter on Central Oregon Coast May Have Shark Bites

Published 12/01/21 at 6:12 PM PST
By Oregon Coast Beach Connection staff

Injured Sea Otter on Central Oregon Coast May Have Shark Bites

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(Newport, Oregon) – Staff at Oregon Coast Aquarium rescued an injured sea sea otter at Yaquina Head Outstanding Natural Area at Newport Tuesday, and are now doing their best to nurse it back to health. (Photos courtesy Oregon Coast Aquarium)

The sea otter was spotted hauling ashore at Cobble Beach by Chief Park Ranger Jay Moeller, who called in aquarium staff immediately. After receiving authorization from the United States Fish and Wildlife Service, aquarium staff coordinated with Jim Rice of the Marine Mammal Stranding Network to retrieve the animal and transport it to the Aquarium for triage and immediate care.

Finding a sea otter on the Oregon coast is rare because they were hunted to extinction in the area over 100 years ago. Periodically, random individuals from colonies farther north are spotted here, while river otters are frequently misidentified by the public as sea otters.

The fact that it's a rare find made taking care of the sea otter that much more important.

Oregon Coast Aquarium spokesman Courtney Klug said the sea otter is an adult male and it was not in good condition. Staff say it was emaciated, had poor mobility, its fur was in bad condition, and it appeared to have numerous lacerations and puncture wounds. Aquarium staff believe this may well be a shark bite, but it's not a positive identification.

Currently, the otter is being treated for infection, with husbandry and veterinary staff monitoring its condition closely.

“While he is alert and accepting food, his prognosis remains guarded,” Klug said.

Aquarium staff are keeping the sea otter away from interacting with humans to reduce stress on the animal and to prepare him for release back into the wild.

“The next few days will be critical in his recovery path and we hope to see his odds improve daily, but it is too early to predict this,” said OCAq's Director of Husbandry Jim Burke. “Our veterinary and rehab staff will do all we can to act quickly to improve his chances of release back into the wild.”

It's believed this was the same sea otter spotted over the last few weeks around the Yaquina Head, stirring up some excitement about the possible return of the species to the Oregon coast.

“This sea otter means a lot to many of us Oregonians,” said Oregon Coast Aquarium's Curator of Marine Mammals Brittany Blades. “I never thought I would get to see a live sea otter living on the Oregon Coast until 3 weeks ago when I saw this otter swimming, foraging and sleeping around Yaquina Head.”

When individuals of the species travel southward into Oregon they are typically male. Often they are looking for mates.

Back in April of this year, Seaside Aquarium helped rescued a sick sea otter found onshore in the Manzanita area, however it died. Sea otters do not wander onto land unless they are sick or injured.

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MORE PHOTOS BELOW






Courtesy Oregon Coast Aquarium: veterinary staff examine an x-ray of the sea otter

Below: photos of the sea otter found in April, courtesy Seaside Aquarium



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