Creature Feature: River Otters

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Creature Feature: River Otters

 


Add this word to your Zoo vocabulary: fishcicles. Fishciciles are frozen fish used as enrichment for Blank Park Zoo animals on hot summer days.

The otters especially enjoy them as their favorite enrichment activity. They move the fishcicles through the water until they melt and they are able to get the fish.

 

The Zoo has two otters, Lucas and Sassy, which have been here since 2006. They receive training every morning, sometimes inside their holding area and other times outside in their exhibit.

 



River otters Sassy (left) and Lucas (right) in their exhibit

Lucas came from Connecticut’s Beardsley Zoo and is 7 years old. Sassy came from the National Mississippi River Museum and is 8 years old.


One of the Zoo’s animal keepers, Travis Wickersham, says Lucas is more outgoing and likes to explore new situations while Sassy is more cautious and takes time to warm up to anything new.

 

One of the fun behaviors we train the otters is called telescoping, which is when they stand up on their back feet. They use this behavior to be able to see what's going on around them, while the keepers use it to check out the underside of their paws and bellies.

 



Lucas "telescopes" for the camera


Sassy sure is cute!


North American River Otters are native throughout parts of the United States and Canada and are able to tolerate wide ranges in temperature. Sassy and Lucas seem to enjoy the cooler weather and are more active during the fall and winter months. They can be out in their exhibit year round and spend much of the day in their pools.

 

While the otters spend most their time in the water, you will occasionally see them get out to explore their exhibit. In the afternoons if they're not swimming, you can find them curled up on the rocks or under a log asleep.

 

Lucas perches on a rock. He sure doesn't seem camera shy!


Sassy heads toward the water.

More otter fun facts:
 

  • Wild otters feed on fish, frogs, crustaceans, insects and even small mammals.

  • At the Zoo we feed the otters capelin, dog food and ground meat. We will give them some fruits, vegetables and other types of fish as enrichment.

  • River otters have 11 different vocalizations – animal communication produced by vocal cords.

  • River otters have a layer of hair that hold air bubbles against their skin, which keeps them warmer and prevents the water from reaching their skin.

  • A square-centimeter-sized patch of river otter skin can contain as many as 58,000 hairs!

 

Jul 12, 2013 10:26 AM |Add a comment
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