The population at the Columbus Zoo and Aquarium grew last Friday with the birth of three North American river otters. They are so lethally cute, we have dubbed them the "Thermonuclear Otter Triplets." Zoo staff accessed the den for a quick health check and confirmed the birth of three males each weighing between five and six ounces. The pups will remain secluded in the den with their mother for approximately two months when she will bring them outdoors and teach them to swim.
Photo credits: Grahm Jones
The river otter’s reproductive cycle involves delayed implantation of the fertilized egg resulting in a gestation period of 290-380 days. The newborn pups are silky black, blind, toothless, and helpless.
River otters were historically distributed throughout much of North America including Ohio but were rare by the early 1900s. Improvements in water quality and trapping management, along with a reintroduction effort, have enabled this species to recover. A reintroduction program beginning in 1998 Otterin Ohio resulted in the river otter being removed from the Ohio endangered species list in 2002. They can now be found in four eastern Ohio watersheds.
Thirteen species of otter live in the freshwater streams, rivers, lakes and coastal areas of five continents – North America, South America, Asia, Africa, and Europe (there are no otters in Antarctica or Australia.) Through the Zoo’s Conservation Fund, researchers in Sri Lanka, Tanzania, and Peru receive support to train young otter biologists, protect habitat, and educate local populations about the important role otters play in wetland and coastal ecosystems.