Quatse the sea otter pup is recovering in Vancouver thanks to the quick action of some North Island residents.
The pup was found abandoned on a beach in Port Hardy on Sunday morning by local residents, who quickly reported her to area marine researcher Jackie (the Marine Detective) Hildering, as well as the B.C. Marine Mammal Reporting Network hotline.
At around 3:30 p.m., Alyssa Berube (who has done numerous animal rescues in the North Island) received a phone call from Hildering, asking if she could pass Berube’s contact information on to Lindsaye Akhurst, manager of the Vancouver Aquarium’s Marine Mammal Rescue Centre.
“Lindsaye from MMR phoned me right away and instructed me to go meet the DFO officer down at the waterfront,” Berube said. “I arrived on scene to find DFO standing out where the tide was low, beside a sleeping otter pup.”
Berube’s husband, Patrick, hauled a large crate down to the beach, while she draped a blanket over the otter and scooped it into the crate.
Berube noted it was “very sleepy at first and then perked up slightly once in the cage,” adding the animal was “at least 25 pounds of jello and teeth.”
After she secured the crate into her truck, the pup began to scream its head off.
“On instruction from MMR, I brought a bag of ice cubes to offer it,” Berube said, adding she put some cubes in the crate and then turned off all the heat in her truck as otters need to stay in a cold environment.
Berube had exactly two hours to get to the Pacific Coastal airport in Campbell River to make a 6 p.m. flight, in order to get the pup to the Vancouver aquarium.
“I drove down while the baby screamed on and off and it’s screams grew weaker and weaker,” said Berube. “I froze my toes off, with only my seat heater for warmth to keep the baby at a low temperature. I made it to the airport by 6:07 p.m. and rushed her inside to make the flight.”
She said the airport staff were really good about the slight delay, and the otter at this point “was breathing, but mostly unresponsive.”
The pup made it to Vancouver alive. Berube received a phone call from Akhurst at 7:45 p.m., where she could hear the baby’s screams in the background that told her “she was doing okay.”
According to Berube, MMR staff worked with the pup — named Quatse, in honour of the Quatse River — throughout the night.
At this point it is uncertain whether she can be released back into the wild. She’s “alive, well, has a healthy appetite and confirmed to be a girl!” said Berube. “They believe she’s still dependent on her mother (who was no where to be found) but she had teeth already so she at least has a fighting chance, age wise.”
The Marine Education and Research Society Facebook page recommends certain steps when finding an animal in distress. You should not touch the animal, keep your distance, ensure dogs stay away, and do not further stress the animal while alerting expertise/authorities.
MERS added the aim when rescuing animals is always for reintroduction into the wild, which means that care includes avoiding habituation to humans.
If you see a marine mammal in trouble, you can call B.C. Marine Mammal Reporting Network hotline at 1-800-465-4336.