Three-week-old otter found in Odessa backyard

A three-week-old otter was found in the backyard of an Odessa home following record-breaking rainfall in Tampa Bay.

The resident found the female otter, later named Petunia, Sunday around 6:45 p.m., and contacted the Clearwater Marine Aquarium. 

Petunia spent the night under observation with one of the aquarium veterinarians, Dr. Shelly Marquardt. She began receiving a health assessment and treatment plan, including regular doses of fluids.

In the following days, a rescue team attempted to reunite Petunia with her mom, but the den couldn’t be found. By January 30, Petunia was transferred to Clinic for Rehabilitation of Wildlife in Sanibel, Florida, where she will rehabilitate among other otter kits. When she is ready, she will be released back into the wild.

Aquarium officials say it’s impossible to know why she was found alone. It’s possible the mother was attempting to relocate their den following the three inches of rain reported in Tampa. Female otters have a history of moving their “dens several times during a kit season due to natural and man-made influences,” according to Clearwater Marine Aquarium.

In December, the aquarium rescued Buddy, who was their younger otter kit rescue to date.

If anyone comes across a young animal that appears to be alone, aquarium officials advise to leave it where it is and call for professional help. If you move away from the area, the mother could return for the baby. Interacting with the animal, having your own pet in the area, or just having people in the area could interfere with the mother’s ability to return. Aquarium officials say otters can be aggressive and have a “powerful bite.”

If you come across a stranding, you are asked to call Clearwater Marine Aquarium’s 24-hour emergency stranding hotline at (727) 441-1790 ext. 1.