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Stories of life along the Mississippi River inspire names for River Museum’s orphaned otters

The orphaned North American River Otters at the National Mississippi River Museum & Aquarium have become fast friends since meeting at the River Museum. Therefore, it should come as no surprise then that their new names reference that bond.

Susan and Ed Ritts, supporters of the Dubuque County Historical Society, which owns and operates the River Museum, were granted the honor of naming the otters. “We named the otters for characters from Mark Twain’s novels,” the couple stated. “River otters are as iconic to the Mississippi as Twain’s works, and we were excited by the opportunity to draw that connection through their names.”

Those names are now Tom Sawyer and Becky Thatcher, in reference to characters from Twain’s The Adventures of Tom Sawyer and Huckleberry Finn. Becky plays an integral role as Tom’s love interest in The Adventures of Tom Sawyer.

“When you name an animal, it makes the animal more memorable and more individual,” said Andy Allison, VP of Education and Living Collections. “People are more likely to remember things if we put names to them. These particular names will also help us connect the natural aspects of the Mississippi River with its cultural significance, hopefully inspiring people to preserve and protect our natural and cultural treasures.”

Tom Sawyer and Becky Thatcher are on daily exhibit in the River Museum’s Flooded Forest habitat in the Mississippi River Discovery Center.