Otter pup eating a morning meal

Exhausted otter pup admitted to hospital

By Joanna Fitzgerald | Director of the von Arx Wildlife Hospital

A river otter was among the 53 animals admitted to the von Arx Wildlife Hospital at the Conservancy of Southwest Florida this past week.

A concerned teacher at the Community School in Naples called the wildlife hospital after seeing a river otter pup alone on the bank of a shallow pond for over an hour. Wildlife Hospital staff responded to the call hoping to analyze the scene and possibly reunite the baby with the mother.

von Arx Wildlife Hospital Manager Jonee Miller moving the pup into its freshly cleaned enclosure

Students and faculty were concerned about us taking the pup but upon seeing the baby, it was immediately apparent she should not have been away from her mother much less out of the den. The otter pup was responsive and vocalized when handled but was weak and exhausted.

Before returning to the Conservancy, hospital staff explored a nearby pond where otters were known to frequent. Although fresh otter tracks were seen along the bank of the pond, no adults were located.

Back at the von Arx Wildlife Hospital the otter was weighed, given a physical exam and placed in an animal intensive care unit to rest. Although the otter wasn’t injured, she was a bit thin. Staff offered oral electrolytes and allowed her time to rest.

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The otter pup was fed specialized milk formula through a syringe several times a day and night for the first two days. Along with the milk, the baby was offered small pieces of fish. The baby slept the majority of the first two days at the hospital while slowly gaining strength as she explored her new surroundings. On the third day the otter eagerly began to eat her milk, egg and fish from a bowl which eliminated the need for syringe feeding. Currently the baby is recovering in a large indoor enclosure that includes a den for sleeping and hiding and two shallow tubs of water which allow the baby water time as she learns to swim.

Call Before You Act

This otter rescue was handled exactly as we would hope. No one at the school handled the youngster while they monitored the situation. Photos were texted to wildlife hospital staff which helped us determine the age and health condition of the baby prior to arriving on scene.

Please, call the wildlife hospital if you suspect and animal is in need of assistance. Hospital staff will assess the situation and determine the appropriate course of action.

Recent Releases — 27 Animals Returned Home

  • 8 brown pelicans
  • 2 peninsula cooters
  • 10 eastern cottontails
  • 1 laughing gull
  • 1 burrowing owl
  • 1 grey squirrel
  • 1 Florida red-bellied turtle
  • 1 osprey
  • 1 mottled duck
  • 1 Virginia opossum

Opportunities to Help

Please visit the Conservancy’s Facebook page to view more photos of Hector and Conservancy volunteers re-nesting the great horned owl. Learn about all of the amazing volunteer opportunities at the Conservancy of Southwest Florida at our website at Your volunteer time, as well as memberships and donations, are vital in helping us continue our work to protect Southwest Florida’s water, land, wildlife and future.

Joanna Fitzgerald is director of the von Arx Wildlife Hospital at the Conservancy of Southwest Florida. Call 239–262–2273 or see