The Last Surviving Otter from the Exxon Valdez Oil Spill Has Died

Written by Stephen Messenger

When a female sea otter named Homer was born near the cool, clean waters along Alaska’s Prince William Sound, her life must have seemed destined to play out much as it had for countless generations before her. But that all changed one fateful day in the early spring of 1989, and things would never be the same for her, or anything else, again.

On May 29 of that year, the oil tanker Exxon Valdez ran aground on a reef just offshore, spilling some 10 million gallons of oil into the surrounding aquatic ecosystem — leading to one of the worst environmental disasters in history. Both immediately, and in the days that followed the spill, wildlife died by the thousands. A quarter-million seabirds would ultimately perish in the resulting sludge, along with hundreds of eagles, seals, and other marine species.

Included in that devastating death toll were at least 2,800 sea otters. Homer, named after the town where she was found, was among just three dozen oil slicked sea otters rescued from the poisoned waters, surviving only thanks to the tireless effort of conservationists and volunteers. Afterwards, the displaced otters were sent to zoos across the country.

In the decades that followed, as a resident of the Point Defiance Zoo & Aquarium in Washington state, Homer and the others would be touted as living reminders of both humanity’s capacity for destruction, and its power to save — educating visitors about the importance of respecting nature and her inhabitants from pollutants.

At age 25, the oldest recorded age for her species, Homer outlived all the other Exxon Valdez survivors. Yesterday, she passed away from natural causes — a death very few of her kin were afforded the opportunity to experience.

“It’s pretty monumental that she’s the last Exxon Valdez oil spill survivor in U.S. zoos and aquariums,” says Karen Wolf, head veterinarian at the Point Defiance Zoo & Aquarium. “She was an amazing animal. She taught a lot of people about conservation.”

Sadly, though Homer takes with her the memory of that experience in 1989, the harmful effects of the Exxon Valdez spill have yet to fade. There is believed to still be around 23,000 US gallons of crude oil remaining in the water and sand surrounding Prince William Sounds, likely to linger for decades to come.

This post was originally published at TreeHugger.

 

Photo from Thinkstock

212 comments

James Dunn
James Dunn2 years ago

Exxon, BPI, and all the oil companies continue to spread pollution globally, because of our own weak human trait to not invest in reduced energy use technologies, and to actively reduce the population of humans that are stressing the planet's non-renewable resources.

College Graduate and net-zero energy consumer = 4 children max and then twice the taxes

Non-college Graduate and net-zero energy consumer = 3 children max and then twice the taxes

College Graduate and 50% energy consumer = 3 children max and then twice the taxes

Non-college Graduate and 50% energy consumer = 2 children max and then twice the taxes

College Graduate and average energy consumer = 2 children max and then twice the taxes

Non-college Graduate and average energy consumer = 1 child max and then twice the taxes

College Graduate and 50% higher energy consumer = 1 child max and then twice the taxes

Non-college Graduate and 50% higher energy consumer = 0 child max and then twice the taxes

Mentally disadvantaged persons are supported by the government, so the facilities in which they are housed must be at worst average energy consumers.

+++++++++++++

project this forward


From year to year "average" approaches net-zero

Carrie-Anne Brown

RIP Homer, thanks for sharing

Mary Madigan
Mary M.2 years ago

I have just read a segment on Care2 about urine being used to charge cell phones for 24 hours. Perhaps our future will be our urine to run our electricity/heating hence oil might be a think of the past.
My electric car works great. Toyota Prius. It is a hybrid using much less petrol. The friction charging the batteries so I never have to Plug into anything.

There are so many eco friendly inventions that never get off the ground....Many bought I believe by big business and shelved. It is time to say enough is enough.

Katherine Wright
Katherine Wright2 years ago

RIP Homer........it saddens me deeply to think of all the animals who died and were injured back then and then again in 2011 in the Gulf of Mexico. I apologize for all the greedy humans who have caused this catastrophe.

Unfortunately we are doomed to repeat history and there will be another oil spill disaster because we are humans and we never learn.

Rehana V.
Rehana VN2 years ago

An unnecessary death caused by inconsiderate & very greedy humans.

David V.
David V.2 years ago

So sad but she did live a long life......Greed Greed Greed is the cause of destruction.....

Manuela C.
Manuela C.2 years ago

Poor thing...

GGma Sheila D.
GGmaSheila D.2 years ago

Another playmate for Roadie and Madi and my cats. Homer will love the pollution-free water in Heaven.

Loredana V.
Loredana V.2 years ago

R.I.P :(

Eternal Gardener
Eternal Gardener2 years ago

There we go again...Big Oil, shortsighted governments and others who would squander everyone's tomorrow for their own greedy gains today!!!