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Examining Sea Otter Clara

Clara, the 13-year-old sea otter, recently received her routine wellness exam at Point Defiance Zoo & Aquarium. While under anesthesia, the non-releasable sea otter was weighed, X-rayed and given a full dental exam and cleaning.

Preferring coastal waters, sea otters can be found from Alaska to California. They were hunted nearly to extinction for their fur. Sea otter fur is the densest of any mammal, with up to one million hairs per square inch.

Their dense fur is why the veterinary staff places ice packs under Clara to ensure she doesn’t get too hot during her exam. This is the opposite of most mammals, which can get too cold while under anesthesia.

Otters are still at great risk from oil spills, parasites that wash into the ocean from storm drains, and plastic ocean trash.

To start off Clara’s exam, Head Veterinarian Dr. Karen Wolf listens to Clara’s heart.

Intern Veterinarian Dr. Cassidy checks Clara’s eyes.

Veterinary Technician Julie collects blood that will be analyzed to check for any health conditions that might not be apparent on a physical exam.

After collecting blood, Veterinary Technician Julie readies the table and X-ray machine. Zoo staff take X-rays of Clara’s whole body.

Pieces of a crustacean shell from a previous meal can be seen making its way through her digestive tract.

Dr. Karen examines Clara’s nasal passages for evidence of nasal mites, which can sometimes be found in sea otters and can cause irritation. Clara did not have any.

Sea otters are vital for the health of coastal ecosystems, particularly kelp forests like those inPuget Sound and Monterey Bay. They love to eat the purple sea urchins that would otherwise devour these vital forests.

Lastly, Clara receives a full dental exam, including teeth cleaning, and X-rays.

Dr. Karen gives Clara a clean bill of health.

Staff Biologist Kelsie gives Clara some ice chips to chew on. Soon she is back home with her friends Libby and Moea.

Meet Clara by visiting Rocky Shores and read more about Clara here.