Oiled Sea Otter Rehabilitation Course

About IWR

IWR was formed in 1989 by Drs. Randall Davis and Terrie Williams, who directed the Sea Otter Rehabilitation Program during the Exxon Valdez oil spill (EVOS). Although many oil spills have been larger than the EVOS, the March 1989 accident represented the first oil spill to affect large numbers of sea otters. At the request of the U.S. Department of the Interior, the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service (USFWS), and Exxon Company U.S.A., the directors of IWR initiated an unprecedented effort to rescue and rehabilitate sea otters that became oiled. Rehabilitation and pre-release facilities were established in Valdez, Seward and Homer and remained in operation until September 1989. The three centers treated a total of 357 sea otters and released 197 adult otters into Prince William Sound and along the Kenai Peninsula under the direction of the USFWS.

Ten years after the EVOS, members of IWR continue to evaluate the effectiveness of rehabilitation techniques and the long-term effects of oil on marine mammals. This has contributed enormously to the wildlife rehabilitation community’s understanding of what is needed to successfully rescue and treat sea otters and other fur-bearing mammals after an oil spill. IWR has taken the lessons from the EVOS and over 15 years of research to develop state-of-the-art techniques for treating oiled marine and terrestrial mammals. With offices in Alaska, California and Texas, IWR provides the following services to state and federal trustee agencies and the oil industry:

  • Oil Spill Contingency Planning and Response
  • Research to Improve Rehabilitation Procedures
  • Training Programs for Volunteers and Professionals

IWR has a long history of improving the professional standards of oiled wildlife rehabilitation through scientific research, facilities design, equipment development and sound management techniques. This dedication to professionalism is best exemplified in the IWR publication Emergency Care and Rehabilitation of Oiled Sea Otters: A Guide for Oil Spills Involving Fur-bearing Marine Mammals (Williams and Davis, ed., 1995, University of Alaska Press). This publication contains the most current information on the care and treatment of oiled, fur-bearing mammals.

As we begin the 21st century, IWR is dedicated to the advancement of humane, rational, and cost-effective techniques for oiled wildlife treatment and rehabilitation. Although our first concern should always be to prevent oil spills, we realize that accidents are inevitable. Through oil spill contingency planning and training programs such as this one, we will be better able to respond rapidly and in a manner that will save more animals.