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Animal rescue team saves injured otter off Tofino

Vancouver Aquarium staff hopeful ‘Corky’ the sea otter will make full recovery.

A sea otter found badly injured in the waters off Tofino is on the mend at the Vancouver Aquarium’s Marine Mammal Rescue Centre.

Staff there have nicknamed the animal “Corky” because it was bobbing in the water when it was found by a rescue team on Aug. 20 near Vargas Island, north west of Long Beach Lodge Resort.

Tofino otter   Tofino otter

The crew was dispatched to Tofino after multiple sightings of an animal in distress.

Air under skin kept Corky afloat


An examination showed that an air bubble had formed under the animal’s skin. The pocket of air made the otter appear bloated and kept him from being able to dive for food under the water.

Back at the Vancouver Aquarium, the head vet at the Marine Science Centre treated the otter and found that the air bubble formed due to a fractured rib and a collapsed lung.

Tofino otter   Tofino otter

Aquarium staff hope Corky will make a complete recovery.

“We had a number of reports last week of a male sea otter in the ocean near Tofino, floating high in the water, appearing very bloated and unable to dive,” Dr. Martin Haulena said in a blog post.

“Based on our findings of a fractured rib and increased muscle enzymes on blood work, our initial diagnostics indicate blunt force trauma, possibly from a boat strike, that fractured the rib and led to the collapse of a lung,” Dr. Haulena said.

Extensive subcutaneous emphysema

The medical name for the type of injury is extensive subcutaneous emphysema.

“The air trapped under the skin is actually a sign of healing, as it has moved from the thorax and is allowing the lung to expand again. The real problem for this guy was because of the excess air, he couldn’t dive or forage and would have starved.”

The aquarium reports that Corky will continue receiving supportive care, regular meals, and pain management.
“We’re also continuing to keep an eye out for underlying causes like an algal toxicity or an encephalitis that may have made him more prone to getting hit by something,” Dr. Haulena said. “We are doing everything we can to ensure he has the best chance for a successful rehabilitation for the eventual release back into local waters.”

Potential release up to feds

Whether Corky will get ever get a chance to ply the waves at Long Beach again or entertain tourists at Tofino resorts will depend on Fisheries and Oceans Canada. The federal agency has the final say on the release of any wild marine mammal saved by the Vancouver aquarium’s rescue centre.

Staff at the centre extended their thanks to a number of local organizations for helping with rescue, including Orca Airways, Tofino Coast Guard, Strawberry Isle Marine Research Society and B.C. Ferries.

According to the Vancouver Aquarium Marine Mammal Rescue Centre website, the organization serves as a hospital for sick, injured or orphaned marine mammals. The aquarium itself is a self-supporting, non-profit society that relies on continuing fundraising efforts to cover the costs of rescuing and rehabilitating animals.
To learn more about the rescue centre or make a donation, go to Vanaqua.org/act/direct-action/marine-mammal-rescue.




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