We Otter Feel Bad for This Wildfire Victim With a Strange Diagnosis

It was this past January when then-six-month-old Mishka was admitted into the Seattle Aquarium. The little otter had been tangled in a fishing net, and after being rehabilitated, authorities declared she could never be released into the wild because she wouldn’t know how to survive. Perhaps this declaration was a blessing in disguise because she later developed a special medical condition: asthma.

Yes, you read that right. And no, it’s not a joke. You can’t make up stuff like this.

If you’ve never heard of an otter with asthma, you’re in good company; neither has anyone else. Her case may be the first humans have ever witnessed. She was diagnosed after her little lungs couldn’t handle the smoky air from recent wildfires.


That probably raises some vital questions in your mind: how? Why? To answer that, we need to meld history with science. For a period of time, otters were extinct around Washington. So along came humans in the 1970s, bringing otters from Alaska to the otter-barren area. That caused genetic diversity to drop, which in turn led to compromised immune systems, which in turn led to cases like Mishka’s.

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Just like anyone with asthma, she needs an inhaler, loaded with the same kind of medicine people use. To train her in the fine art of nudging it with her nose and gulping in a big breath of air, they give her food (a great incentive, whether you’re an animal or a person!). It’s predicted she’ll depend on the inhaler for life.

Of course, it was human activity that caused Miskha’s problems in the first place, but who knows where she would be if it weren’t for the caring humans who intervened? You can be a helping hand, too, regardless of who you are. Read on to find out how!

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