Cuteness Break: Sea Otter Released Back to Wild

Yankee Doodle, a malnourished sea otter, spent the summer recovering from toxoplasmosis in Marin County.

After a summer of recovering from ailments, a sea otter named Yankee Doodle dandily went back into the waters of Half Moon Bay on Tuesday.

The Marine Mammal Center released the adult male otter, estimated to be four years old, after treating him for domoic acid toxicity and toxoplasmosis. This is the center’s second released otter in one month.

Yankee Doodle found him underweight and malnourished at Half Moon Bay State Beach and later found the acid poisoning through an MRI. Algal blooms contaminated shellfish with toxins that he ultimately ate, the center says.

Toxoplasmosis, which causes fatal brain infections in many southern sea otters, posed an even greater threat. With antibiotics and a diet of restaurant-quality shrimp, clam, squid, and mussels, Yankee Doodle recovered.

The center will be able to track his adventures — and survival — off the coast with a Life History Transmitter they implanted in his abdomen.

As with many wild animals we get to know, there is an underlying threat to their existence. Up to 20,000 southern sea otters may have lived along our coast at one point, but have an estimated few thousand left, according to the center. 

The center rehabilitated 20 other sea otters and responded to more than 350 stranded otters since 1995. The species is considered threatened under the federal Endangered Species Act.

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