A sea otter that was found badly injured by a shotgun blast in October has been moved into long-term care at the Vancouver Aquarium to be with three other otters.
When Walter, as the sea otter was named by staff, was found on the shoreline near Tofino, his face was riddled with what veterinarians later determined were shotgun pellets.
He was blinded and his flipper was fractured, leaving him unable to groom himself, which can be fatal for otters because they rely on their thick coats to keep themselves warm.
The otter underwent several surgeries at the Marine Mammal Rescue Centre, and was treated for severe dental injuries that resulted from the shotgun blast. But because he is blind, Walter is unable to forage for food and must be hand fed.
Due to the extensive nature of his injuries and his inability to care for himself in the wild, Walter has now been designated non-releasable, and his transfer to the aquarium approved by Fisheries and Oceans Canada, staff say.
Brian Sheehan, the aquarium's marine mammal curator, says Walter has been trained to respond to voice commands in order to help him adapt to his lack of sight.
"We're also going to be using a lot more tactile information. He's already been desensitized, or got acclimated to being touched, through the process of his rehabilitation, but we'll be doing a lot more of that from a training point of view," he said.
Sea otters were wiped out in B.C. by the fur trade in the early part of the 20th century, but thanks to the relocation of 89 animals from Alaska between 1969 and 1972, their population is now growing and expanding, say aquarium staff.