The last remaining sea otter known to have survived the 1989 Exxon Valdez oil spill in Alaska was euthanized at Point Defiance Zoo & Aquarium Monday.
Homer, believed to be 25, went on to live an unusually long life after the Valdez disaster. A sea otter’s lifespan is 15 to 25 years.
Homer was named for the city in Alaska where she was found. She came to Tacoma not long after the oil spill, and was one of about three dozen sea otters that were rescued and placed in zoos and aquariums.
For several days prior to her death Homer had a poor appetite, eating only a couple of the 8-to-9 pounds of seafood she needed daily, according to the zoo.
Female sea otters weigh more than 50 pounds, but Monday morning Homer weighed only 39.
Samples taken Monday will help determine what caused her illness, the zoo said.
Lisa Triggs, the biologist who cared for Homer, remembered her as “the best otter ever.”
She was a laid-back sweetheart who could be counted on to move to her station for feedings five times daily, Triggs said.
Thousands of sea otters died immediately from the 11-million gallon spill in Prince William Sound, and more died in the following months. Charcoal was used to try to neutralize the oil to save Homer and others.
Last fall another sea otter survivor of the spill, 23-year-old Kenai, was euthanized at Shedd Aquarium in Chicago because of deteriorating health due to her age.
“We know Homer was the last surviving Exxon Valdez sea otter in North American zoos and aquariums,” said Point Defiance Zoo & Aquarium deputy director John Houck, who went to Alaska to help rescue animals after the disaster. “It’s highly likely that she was the last sea otter on the planet to have survived that spill.”
Four other sea otters remain on display at the zoo.