A young, male North American River otter was hit by a vehicle while crossing the road in Port Charlotte in February, suffering a fractured, left femur in his left leg.
Now, after nearly four months of surgery, rehab and care, he returned to the wild.
The otter, which was not given a name, was released in a remote location outside of Punta Gorda, where he “immediately took to the water and swam off,” according to the Clinic for the Rehabilitation of Wildlife (CROW).
The injured otter was originally taken to Charlotte Animal Hospital in Port Charlotte before going to the Peace River Wildlife Center. He was then admitted to CROW in Sanibel Island on Feb. 7.
Critical conditionUpon arrival, the otter was in a comatose state.
He suffered from head trauma, a fractured femur and was overheating due to shock from his accident. The otter was estimated to be 1-year old.
Veterinarians immediately worked to stabilize the otter, placing a catheter and administering fluids that were run through cold water to cool him down. He was also given pain medication.
Two days later, veterinarians removed the catheter. The otter was noted to be much more active, biting the enclosure, eating on his own and trying to escape whenever the door to his enclosure opened.
“(Otters) have a natural fear of humans and will keep their distance, but can become aggressive when approached, or having to be restrained for treatment,” said CROW spokesperson Brian Bohlman. “Although they are adorable animals, it is important for people to remember that otters are predatory animals that can become aggressive and should be admired from a safe distance in the wild.”
SurgeryThe morning of his surgery, Feb. 11, the otter was quiet but alert.
He was taken to Fort Myers-based BluePearl Pet Hospital’s Specialized Veterinary Services where Dr. Jason Eisele placed a stainless steel bone plate with six screws to stabilize the fractured femur.
He was then transferred back to CROW, where he received post-op care throughout the night.
The next morning, he was bright and alert, CROW noted.
RecoveryMore than a week after surgery, the otter was moved to a small, outdoor enclosure where he received supervised tub time and environmental enrichment.
During the transition he experienced an implant failure most likely due to excessive activity and force on his leg. He was taken back to Eisele to repair the plate in his leg Feb. 23, and then was returned to CROW.
“Wildlife always presents challenges when recovering from injuries,” said Dr. Kyle Abbott, a veterinary intern at CROW who worked closely with the otter. “For this active adult otter, the challenge was keeping his activity level restricted enough to allow his injury to heal.”
By March 6, the otter started using its injured leg while walking, “but (was) still hesitant about putting his full weight on it,” CROW said on their website. He was also reluctant to his supervised swim time, putting his head and feet in the water, but not going in completely.
The otter was moved back to his outdoor enclosure, complete with a pool, March 20.
By mid-April, the otter began using the pool and receiving live prey, allowing him to exercise his injured leg and maintain his hunting instincts. CROW reported he was successful in catching all the fish provided for him.
After consulting with Eisele, the otter was cleared for release May 23.
ReleaseThursday morning, the otter was released in a remote location outside of Punta Gorda that was well-suited for otters, according to Bohlman.
He “immediately took to the water and swam off,” CROW stated on their website.
“It is amazing anytime we get to return an animal to the wild,” Abbott said, “but, this otter was a special case in the sense that he had a lot of obstacles to overcome.”
“This is another example of how the wildlife rehabilitation community works together for the benefit of those species being increasingly displaced and injured by our encroachment into their territory,” said Dr. Robin Jenkins, the director of veterinary medicine for the Peace River Wildlife Center.
If someone finds an injured animal, they should immediately contact Peace River Wildlife Center at 941-637-3830. They can also contact the Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission at 888-404-3922.
To read the otter’s full tale, or other patient stories, check out CROW’s website at www.crowclinic.org.