Rehabilitating sea otters: Feeling good versus being effective; Chapter 20

By:  and 
Edited by: Peter KareivaMichelle Marvier, and Brian Silliman



This chapter examines the complexities of assessing the merits and drawbacks of wildlife rehabilitation. Wildlife rehabilitation is often costly, and the resulting benefits differ depending on whether one’s interest is in the welfare of individual animals or conserving populations. Two examples of this dilemma include the rehabilitation of oiled sea otters following the Exxon Valdez spill in Prince William Sound, Alaska, and the rehabilitation of stranded sea otter pups in central California. In the first example, substantial financial investment resulted in little or no benefits for population conservation. In the second example, the potential for population-level benefits is context dependent: in populations near carrying capacity the conservation impacts are negligible, whereas in isolated, low-density populations rehabilitation and release can be an effective conservation tool. Wildlife rehabilitation is valued by people for various reasons, but recognizing and acknowledging the difference between individual and population welfare is an important step toward effective wildlife conservation.

Additional publication details

Publication type Book chapter
Publication Subtype Book Chapter
Title Rehabilitating sea otters: Feeling good versus being effective; Chapter 20
ISBN 9780198808978
DOI 10.1093/oso/9780198808978.003.0020
Year Published 2017
Language English
Publisher Oxford University Press
Contributing office(s) Western Ecological Research Center
Larger Work Type Book
Larger Work Title Effective conservation science: Data not dogma