Oiled Sea Otter Rehabilitation Course

Chapter 3 – Introduction

The sea otter has an aggressive temperament characteristic of other mustelids (i.e. river otters, skunks, weasels). Its large canine teeth and strong jaws are extremely dangerous, and the retractable nails on the front paws can inflict serious scratches. Therefore, the handling of a sea otter should only be undertaken with caution and adequate physical or chemical restraint. The decision to use either physical or chemical restraint will depend on the health of the animal, the procedures to be performed, and the duration of immobility required.

This chapter provides the basic information for handling and restraining adult sea otters. Various techniques for physical and chemical restraint were tested on oiled sea otters brought to rehabilitation centers during the Exxon Valdez oil spill (EVOS). The evaluation of each procedure was based on safety for animals and personnel, and the otter’s response during recovery. We present the recommended procedures based on these evaluations.