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Museum & Aquarium Mourns Loss of River Otter, Bart

The National Mississippi River Museum & Aquarium is sad to announce the loss of Bart, one of the Museum & Aquarium’s two beloved North American River Otters, on April 22, 2018.

At the time of his death, Bart was approximately 18 years of age and one of the oldest of his species registered in an AZA-accredited facility. Bart lived a long life for his species, despite several health concerns including a neurological disorder that caused him to have periods of tremors and seizures.

In the days preceding his passing, members of the animal care team observed Bart’s appetite and activity had declined rapidly. Under the care of the Museum & Aquarium’s veterinarian, Bart was evaluated and found to have an inoperable tumor. Due to his advanced age and other chronic health issues, the difficult decision was made to humanely euthanize him.

Bart was one of two river otters brought to the Museum & Aquarium in late 2004 by the Iowa DNR. “Bart was a great ambassador for his species and he was loved not only by the staff who took care of him, but also all of the Museum & Aquarium visitors who were able to view and interact with him during his time at our facility,” said Andy Allison, Director of Living Collections. “His presence helped connect visitors to the greater river otter conservation story and history of the species in Iowa.”

Bart was a mellow and laid-back otter who enjoyed crayfish and was a favorite among the animal care team. When another river otter at the aquarium gave birth to three female pups, Bart, who did not sire the pups, was gentle and interactive with all of them. Staff recall the mother otter, Mama, teaching the young pups to swim in the pool. “Bart was quite attentive and would assist with moving the pups to land when swim time was complete,” said Abby Urban, Lead Keeper and Registrar.

Mama, the female river otter who has lived with Bart since 2004, will be closely monitored and receive additional training and enrichment opportunities while staff work with the North American River Otter species survival plan coordinator to help determine if there may be a suitable new companion for her.