Oiled Sea Otter Rehabilitation Course

Chapter 12 – Introduction

To care for more than fifty oiled sea otters at one time, a treatment and rehabilitation facility should be designed for moving animals efficiently through the various rehabilitation stages. Depending on the exposure level, rehabilitation of an oiled otter may require a few days to several months. Once the otters have recovered their health and coat condition, they should be moved immediately to a prerelease facility for regaining muscular strength and stamina prior to release. A rehabilitation facility designed as a flow-through system can treat many more otters during an oil spill than the holding capacity of its pens and pools.

Each type of facility and each stage of rehabilitation has specific requirements for indoor space, pens, pools, equipment, and amenities. (See Appendix 6 Download PDF for a description of the equipment required for rehabilitating oiled sea otters.) Also, the facility should provide space for support functions such as food preparation, veterinary care, administration, security, and maintenance. To ensure good hygiene and prevent disease transmission, the animal care staff needs adequate lavatories, an area to change into sanitary clothing before beginning work, and a cafeteria.

This chapter describes essential design elements’ for regional rehabilitation and prerelease facilities for fifty or more sea otters. Many of the recommendations are based on the design of sea otter rehabilitation centers built in Alaska during the Exxon Valdez oil spill (EVOS). For the rehabilitation of less than fifty otters, the facilities of local oceanaria and centers for the care of stranded marine mammals may be sufficient. However, additional space not commonly found in these facilities will be needed for cleaning the oiled otters and holding them in the outdoor, fiberglass pens described in Chapter 7. Veterinary clinics and zoos are not recommended for the rehabilitation of oiled sea otters that are intended for release because of the risk of exposure to domestic and other terrestrial animal diseases.