What do the adult river otters eat?
At the Zoo, our river otters have a highly varied diet. Ground beef makes up the majority of the diet, but they also receive three different types of fish (herring, capelin, smelt), different types of kibble, hardboiled eggs, mice, vegetables, clams, crayfish and live fish.
We use a portion of their diet for training, and they voluntarily participate in up to four training sessions per day. The rest of the food is scattered around the exhibit to encourage hunting and searching activity, and is also placed into enrichment items to encourage natural foraging behaviors.
What are the next big milestones for the otter pups?
The next big milestone for the pups is learning how to swim! Once we saw Ashkii trying to push the pups into her water bowl, we knew it was time to offer them a shallow pool.
The first time a pool was offered, Ashkii immediately went to work getting all of the pups into the pool and nosing them around. She would swim to each of them and nose them to make sure they were OK.
When she thought they had enough, she pulled them out of the pool and put them back into the den; but that didn’t keep them from leaving the den and climbing back into the pool on their own! As the pups get more comfortable in the water, we’ll increase the size and depth of the pool.
When will the pups make their debut?
I know many Zoo fans are patiently waiting to meet the otter pups and, if all goes according to plan, they will make their debut in a month or two. It will depend on our confidence in their ability to navigate the yard safely by themselves. The biggest determining factor will be how well they are walking around on their own and how easily they are able to get in and out of their training pools.
Once we see that happening on a frequent basis without the assistance of mom, they will be ready to explore the outdoor habitat. In the meantime, stop by and visit their dad, Emmett, on American Trail!
This story appears in the April 2019 issue of National Zoo News.