A sea otter believed to be the last remaining Exxon Valdez oil spill survivor was euthanized at Point Defiance Zoo and Aquarium on Monday.
Veterinarians euthanized Homer, a 25-year-old Northern sea otter, after an exam showed severe wasting and other serious medical issues.
Homer was named for the city in Alaska near the area where she was found and came to Tacoma shortly after the 1989 spill as one of about three dozen rescued sea otters placed in zoos and aquariums.
"It's pretty monumental" that she's the last Exxon Valdez oil spill survivor in U.S. zoos and aquariums,” Point Defiance Zoo & Aquarium head veterinarian Karen Wolf said.
"She was an amazing animal. She taught a lot of people about conservation."
Thousands of sea otters died immediately as a result of the 11-million gallon spill in Alaska's Prince William Sound. More died in the days, weeks and months following the disaster.
Heavily oiled otters like Homer ingested quite a bit of petroleum, Point Defiance deputy director John Houck said. "They pumped a slurry of charcoal into those otters to try and neutralize the oil. It was a heroic effort, and it paid off in saving many otters' lives."
Homer's long life at Pont Defiance Zoo & Aquarium was a testament to that rescue effort, Houck said.
In addition, she was an invaluable teacher on conservation issues and the effects of pollution on wildlife.