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A River Otter "Pupdate"

This update was written by American Trail keeper Jackie Spicer.

Our 4 month-old North American river otter pups Coquille, Potomac and Nash have been exploring their exhibit on American Trail since late April, and they get more adventurous with each new day.

When the pups first went out on exhibit, they were quite cautious about venturing too far into the yard and were reluctant to swim. With a lot of encouragement from their mom, Ashkii, the pups have since acclimated well to their surroundings. Now, they spend a lot of time in the pool, and they will even dive all the way to the bottom. They have become very confident swimmers! On land, the pups entertain each other will lots of play wrestling and chasing one another around the exhibit.

With young animals, almost everything in their environment is interesting to them. That is part of the fun of watching them! We offer multiple forms of enrichment to the otters daily, so they have had an opportunity to interact with a variety of items. As youngsters, they have bursts of energy, but also spend a lot of time sleeping due to so much excitement.Otter pups begin exploring solid food around two months old and wean by the time they are four months old. When they were younger, Coquille, Potomac and Nash would mostly mouth their mother’s diet. Now, their nutrition comes from thawed fish—such as smelt, capelin, and herring—as well as ground beef. We also offer daily enrichment food items, including vegetables, frozen-thawed mice, hard boiled eggs and goldfish. They all seem to like smelt the best! Each otter has his or her own diet. The portion size will gradually increase as the pups get older and bigger.

In the coming months, the pups will begin husbandry training sessions with their keepers. All of the training we do with our otters enables them to voluntarily participate in their own health care. We ask them to do behaviors that enable us to get a good look at their bodies, such as presenting their paws, limbs, backs and bellies for a quick visual check-up. This gives keepers an opportunity to check for any cuts, scrapes or other injuries that may require veterinary attention. If they do the correct behavior asked of them, they receive a reward—usually their favorite fish or a meatball. Once training sessions begin, we will keep you posted on the pups’ progress—so, stay tuned!

Planning to visit the river otter pups at American Trail? The best time to see them is from 10 a.m. to 1 p.m. daily, weather-permitting. Meet one of the species on American Trail at the “Keeper’s Choice” demonstration at 1:30 p.m. Check out other fun daily programs around the Zoo.