The Vancouver sea otter, Whiffen, who made headlines and inspired a hashtag after his rescue this past February from a quiet beach near Sooke, B.C., has passed away. Over the weekend, the otter was undergoing an MRI under anesthetic to try and determine the cause of his ongoing medical issues when he began to have trouble breathing and soon succumbed.
The scan was intended to discover why the sea otter was still not gaining weight, had progressive muscle loss, head tremors, weakness and was not getting better, said Vancouver Aquarium head veterinarian Dr. Martin Haulena. It was also to determine the best course of action and humane options in Whiffen’s best interests.
Whiffen was in critical condition, displayed whole body seizures, was emaciated and hypoglycemic with injuries to his hind flippers when rescued on February 23 by a team from the Vancouver Aquarium Marine Mammal Rescue Centre. Over the next three months, Whiffen’s level of care decreased from 24 to 16 hours per day, and his appetite began to improve. Fans of the sea otter soon adopted the hashtag #GoWhiffen as they followed his progress on social media.
Unfortunately, some necessary signs of improvement never appeared. He did not gain full range of motion in his hind flippers, his neurologic signs continued, and he still needed some help grooming when he got out of the pool.
Although the hope for Whiffen — as it is for every patient of the Marine Mammal Rescue Centre — was recovery and release, the team’s experience with the sea otter will provide important information and data.
“The scans we took on Saturday will be important in future cases so we can make decisions as fast as possible,” said Dr. Haulena. “I’m proud of our team. They made an excellent effort to use every available means to come up with an answer for Whiffen, and what they learned here will be invaluable in future cases.”
Image: Vancouver Aquarium