08/03/2012 03:31 EDT | Updated 10/03/2012 05:12 EDT

Vancouver Aquarium caring for injured sea otter found on Wash. state beach

VANCOUVER - Staff at the Vancouver Aquarium are keeping an around-the-clock eye on their newest patient — a sea otter found severely injured in Washington State.

Quin is named after the Quinault Indian Nation where he was found July 9 lying on the beach, aquarium spokeswoman Lindsaye Akhurst said Friday.

The adult male otter had suffered an unknown trauma to his flippers, which were very swollen. Infection had set in and he was critically malnourished.

He received emergency care at the Point Defiance Zoo & Aquarium in Tacoma, Wash., until he was able to be moved Aug. 1 to the Vancouver Aquarium's Marine Mammal Rescue Centre.

"He was in really rough shape," said Akhurst.

Washington state doesn't have a marine mammal rehabilitation facility, she said.

"The Vancouver Aquarium itself is a world-class facility and we have the knowledge and the space to have and house these animals."

Vancouver Aquarium staff were involved in his care in Washington until he could be moved north of the border.

Veterinarian Chelsea Anderson said when Quin, arrived he was unable to even get in and out of a small pool on his own. He's now able to do that, but staff still have to monitor him around the clock.

"He's definitely doing better but it's going to be a long, long road," she said.

"He gets 24-hour observation. He's monitored very closely and we have daily assessments of him.... We're hopeful that things are going to go well but we take it day by day."

The otter is on antibiotics and pain medication, but the main focus is to get enough food into him to bring his weight back up to normal.

"The first and foremost goal would be to return him to the wild. That's always our goal with any animal we bring into the rescue centre," Anderson said.

"So we assess him every day and as he gets better we'll see if that's something that we can do. With that being in mind, we try to minimize human contact as best we can so that he's a good candidate if that's what's deemed appropriate."

Once common across the Pacific Rim from northern Japan to Baja, California, sea otters were hunted near to extinction during the fur trade and they are listed as a species of special concern in Canada.

"The population of sea otters in British Columbia is what is called 'of special concern,' within the Species at Risk Act," Akhurst said. "Their numbers have been increasing, and steadily inclining over the years, but they're still of concern. Their numbers still aren't what they used to be."