Posted by: thewideblueyonder | April 26, 2009

Sea Otter Acquires 1,000 FaceBook Friends

Written by Jake Richardson

sea otter

While being nursed back to health, a sea otter was supported by a huge online gathering.

The California sea otter was found covered with oil, and stranded at Sunset Beach in Monterey. It was taken to the California Dept. of Fish and Game’s Wildlife Veterinary Care and Research Center in Santa Cruz. She was named ‘Olive’ while being cleansed of the oil stuck in and encompassing her fur. Oiled sea otters can die from hypothermia because the oil disrupts the furs capacity to retain heat. (Oil is also toxic when ingested).  Olive spent about 6 weeks in rehab to get healthy. She was de-oiled using a combination of olive oil, dish soap and warm water repeatedly.

During rehab a Facebook page was created for her. About 900 fans joined her page and sent get well messages while following her progress. One of the attending vets (Dave Jessup) remarked, “Olive has been a great patient. She has taught us a great deal and will likely teach us much more about the pollution-related problems sea otters face.” 

She made a full recovery, and was released back into the Pacific Ocean in early April. Her Facebook page actually gained more friends after the release, and is still active with her fans. A most recent entry states, “As the father of a 14-year-old daughter, I am constantly reminded how quickly they grow up, but this is ridiculous ! Isn’t Olive a bit young for a serious boyfriend? She’s only been free for a little more than a week for crying out loud.”

There are only about 2,800 southern sea otters in California. They are stressed by constant amounts of pollution in their habitats. Sea otters are a keystone species, meaning their feeding habits actually help manage the kelp forests where they live. Without sea otters to eat the species (like sea urchins) that eat kelp, the kelp forests may be diminished to a degree they no longer support other forms of life, like they do in a balanced ecosystem. The keystone species concept was introduced by Robert Paine, a University of Washington professor. This page references the importance of sea otters, ”The return of the sea otter to southern California, for example, is restoring kelp beds and associated marine life there.”

 Recently when an extremely rare sighting of a sea otter was confirmed off the coast of Oregon, it sparked jubilation among nature lovers. No confirmed sightings had taken place there for about 100 years.

Image Source: California Dept. of Fish and Game

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