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Orphaned Female North American River Otter Arrival and Introduction

North American River Otter Introduction - 2020
Dubuque, Iowa – The National Mississippi River Museum & Aquarium is thrilled to announce the arrival of a female North American River Otter. The female otter has now joined the River Museum’s recently acquired male river otter in the Flooded Forrest habitat.

“We were contacted about the female river otter shortly after we made plans to bring the male otter to the River Museum,” said Abby Urban, Curator of Living Collections. “We’d been expecting to find the male otter a potential companion through our partners within the Association of Zoos and Aquariums; however, finding out about another young orphaned otter within the state in need of placement took us by surprise. A lot of work went into pre-planning, care, and management of both animals to ensure they were healthy and that the introduction would go smoothly.”

The female river otter was housed independently for a period of time to ensure her health before introducing her to other resident animals within the River Museum. Following this quarantine period, the female otter was given an opportunity to explore the male otter’s habitat and get used to his scent. Similarly, the male otter was placed in the female’s holding area to help him acclimate to her scent. River otters have a strong sense of smell, making this portion of the introduction period especially important.


Next, the otters were placed in separate spaces where they could see, hear and smell each other. “The otters made vocalizations toward one another like squeaks and chirps,” said Urban. “There were no signs of stress, and we saw positive indicators this introduction would go well.”

The last step in the planned introduction was to allow the otters to be in physical contact with each other. During this period, keepers closely monitored the animals and were surprised by how smoothly the introduction went. The otters showed immediate interest in one another.
“Upon introduction, the female appeared to be actively leading their socialization and play,” said Urban. “Over the next few weeks staff and our guests will be able to watch the personalities of these otters develop further as they get to know one another.”

The River Museum also has a third North American River Otter named Momma who is housed in an adjacent habitat. Due to her age and temperament, she will continue to live independently from the younger otters who will remain on display in the Flooded Forrest until a new otter habitat can be constructed in the next few years.

Funding made possible inpart by the Alliant Energy Foundation.