Orphaned otters from Maple Ridge learn to fish

Siblings found in Maple Ridge two weeks ago are 15 weeks old. Their mom was most likely hit by a car.

Critter Care in Langley is taking care of Diloo along with sister Mo

Critter Care in Langley is taking care of Diloo along with sister Mo

A pair of orphaned river otters from Maple Ridge are learning how to survive in the wild at a rehabilitation centre in Langley.

The siblings were found two weeks ago hiding under a barbecue in the backyard of a house, their mother nowhere in sight.

“She was most likely hit by a car,” said Angela Fontana, a senior animal care supervisor at the Critter Care Wildlife Society where Mo and her brother Diloo are staying.

Around 15 weeks old, the otters are too young to survive in the wild on their own.

The pair are now living with eight other orphaned otters, where they are picking up skills they would have learned from their mother.

“They are going to start learning how to fish soon,” said Fontana.

“We are going to start giving them live fish. That’s the biggest thing we have to teach them, making sure they can catch fish on their own.”

The river otter, a member of the weasel family, is comfortable in water and on land. They live in burrows close to the water’s edge in river, lake, swamp or coastal ecosystems.

Although fish is a favoured meal for otters, they also eat frogs and small birds.

Mo and Diloo will be released in the fall since they’ve spent more time in the wild. The other otters will stay at Critter Care through winter. “We are quite confident that they’ll be fine in the wild,” said Fontana.

Critter Care Wildlife Society specializes in the treatment, care and release of sick, injured and orphaned mammals. It is also one of four bear rehab centres in the province.

Besides otters, the society has cared for bears, racoons, Douglas squirrels, skunks and minks from Maple Ridge and Pitt Meadows.

The non-profit society receives a few grants but relies on donations for its day-to-day operations, costs which can often balloon if there is a sudden influx of animals. Rehabilitating one bear cub costs $5,000. Critter Care released 16 cubs in April.

“Our fundraisers are very important,” said Elaine Stirling, a volunteer at Critter Care for the past eight years, who is organizing the society’s fourth annual “walk-a-thon.”

It’s baby season, so the centre is currently caring for 105 raccoon kits, 51 baby skunks, three fawns, three coyote pups, the otters and several other small mammals.

Most of the donations raised go towards purchasing a special milk formula for baby animals, as well as medication.

The society also has to buy fish for the otters.

Fontana says 10 river otters eat about 10 kilograms of fish a day.

“We’ve got some people to donate salmon so we’re pretty lucky,” she added.


Walk on wild side

• Critter Care’s fourth annual walk-a-thon takes place Sept. 30 at Campbell Valley Regional Park, Langley. Onsite registration starts at 11:15 a.m. and the walk starts at 12:15 p.m. Register online at www.crittercarewildlife.org or call Judy at 604 – 857 – 8811 or e-mail jiidii@hotmail.com or call Cathy at 604 – 530 – 2350, email: claycath@telus.net.

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