Northern River Otter Case Report

In the middle of April, an adult male North American river otter (Lontra canadensis) presented to the Wildlife Medical Clinic after being found unresponsive on the side of the road. A Good Samaritan brought the otter to a nearby veterinarian who completed a full work-up. Unfortunately, no abnormalities showed up on bloodwork or radiographs, so the veterinary clinic transferred the patient to the WMC.

river otter exam

On initial physical examination, the only abnormal findings were slight dehydration and poor, inappropriate mentation. The otter was given subcutaneous fluids to help combat the dehydration and students administered a non-steroidal anti-inflammatory to help alleviate any inflammation that could have been causing the neurologic signs. The volunteers’ top differentials for his condition were infectious disease, toxin exposure, and trauma. After only 24 hours in the clinic, the otter’s mentation greatly improved; he ate all the food offered to him in his cage and he swam in a pool. A few days after intake, the otter was put under general anesthesia to have radiographs performed. Fortunately for the otter, there were no abnormal findings on his radiographs either.

After only 10 days in our care, he made a full recovery: he swam and moved around appropriately, he acted like a typical otter should act, and he “hunted” for live prey placed in his swimming pool. He was released by student volunteers at Kickapoo State Park and seemed to enjoy his new environment shortly after release. Although the volunteers at the WMC are still not completely sure what was causing this patient to be so down and out, everyone was more than relieved to see that he was feeling better and back to acting like a normal otter should!

—Ainsley Boyle, WMC student manager, 3rd-year veterinary student

river otter in clinic pool

Featured Endandered Wildlife Species

by Lauren Kane (VM16)

Blue Iguana (Cyclura lewisi)

The Grand Cayman Blue Iguana (Cyclura lewisi) is endemic to the island of Grand Cayman and is one of the longest-lived species of lizards. Fewer than 15 animals remained in the wild by 2003, and this wild population was predicted to become extinct within the first decade of the 21st century. The species’ decline is mainly being driven by predation by feral pets (cats and dogs) and indirectly by the destruction of their natural habitat as fruit farms are converted to pasture for cattle grazing. Since 2004, hundreds of captive-bred animals have been released into a preserve on Grand Cayman run by a partnership headed by the Durrell Wildlife Conservation Trust, in an attempt to save the species.

The Blue Iguana is listed as endangered on the IUCN Red List. In late 2012, the Blue Iguana Recovery Program estimated that the wild population had risen to approximately 750 individuals, and the IUCN subsequently downlisted the species from critically endangered to endangered. The Blue Iguana Recovery Program’s conservation strategy involves generating large numbers of genetically diverse hatchlings, head-startingthem for two years where their chance of survival in the wild is high, and using these animals to rebuild a series of wild sub-populations in protected, managed natural areas.This is accompanied by field research, nest site protection, and monitoring of the released animals. Restored sub-populations are already present in two non-contiguous areas—the Salina Reserve and the Queen Elizabeth II Botanic Park.

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