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Unexpected opportunity to care for orphaned animal

The National Mississippi River Museum & Aquarium received an unexpected opportunity this July to become the new home of a 15-month-old orphaned North American River Otter.

“Our keepers are all very excited about the new addition to the animals in our care,” said Abby Urban, Curator of Living Collections. “River otters remain rare in rehab settings, so this is a unique opportunity to bring another otter into our facility that would not do well in the wild.”

The otter was found in June of 2018 at the age of two months and has been cared for over the last year by an experienced, independent rehabber in Altoona, Iowa. It was hoped the animal would be a candidate for release. However, after rehabilitation, the recommendation was made that he would do better in a captive setting and the River Museum was contacted as a potential home for the orphan.

Modifications are already being made to the River Museum’s Flooded Forest exhibit to make room for the otter. Ducks have been moved to the Backwater Marsh exhibit, while fish from the Flooded Forest have been split among a number of other aquariums. Physical modifications to the space are also underway at this time.

“Our hope is this otter eventually shares space with another otter; however, for the immediate future, the new otter must follow our quarantine requirements for a period of time so we may assess his health, eating levels, and acclimate him to his new environment.” Urban said.

The otter is due to arrive within the next two weeks and will be slowly acclimated to his new home. It is hoped that guests will be able to get a glimpse of him by late August, with a more specific timeframe coming in the next two weeks.

North American River Otters were once extirpated in the state of Iowa. They have had a remarkable comeback in the last 100 years and are a vital part of our rivers and streams. “Otters are sensitive to pollution and their presence indicates healthy river ecosystems,” Urban said. “We’re excited to soon have an additional otter to help spread the message of river conservation and the history of the species in North American settlement.” Updates on the otter’s arrival can be followed on the National Mississippi River Museum & Aquarium’s Facebook page.

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