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The sea otter swims at the Vancouver Aquarium Oct. 18, 2013. (HO)
The sea otter swims at the Vancouver Aquarium Oct. 18, 2013. (HO)

Shot off Tofino, Walter the blind sea otter is on the mend Add to ...

He’s blind, missing a digit and three teeth and still has “a long ways to go,” but Walter the sea otter is in stable condition.

Walter was found suffering from gunshot wounds off the coast of Tofino in early October. He was admitted to the Vancouver Aquarium and has been in critical condition until now.

“I’m happy with his progress, super happy with the procedures that we’ve done and just really impressed by his spirit,” Martin Haulena, the aquarium’s veterinarian, said Wednesday.

Dr. Haulena said Walter is interacting well with aquarium staff, has a healthy appetite and is very energetic. “He’s kind of settling in, which is really great to see,” Dr. Haulena said.

In the past seven weeks, the sea otter has undergone about 10 hours of surgery and has been sedated for numerous blood and postsurgery assessments.

But despite Walter’s progress, Dr. Haulena said there’s still a lot that could go wrong. One of the sea otter’s flippers is still healing and could get infected. He also still has signs of liver damage, which was likely caused by starvation when he was wounded and unable to forage for food.

Unlike veterinary care with domestic animals, treating wild animals comes with its own set of challenges. For instance, Dr. Haulena has no idea how old Walter is and what else he may have encountered in his life.

“There’s a lot of unknowns, so I try to be fairly cautious when I give a prognosis.”

Because Walter is blind and unlikely to regain his sight, Dr. Haulena doesn’t believe that the sea otter will ever be released back into the wild. Decisions about Walter’s release and placement will be made by the Department of Fisheries and Oceans. “To me a great thing would be to have him placed where people can learn about sea otters and have a look at him,” Dr. Haulena said. “And where people can take care of him for the rest of his life.”

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