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UPDATE: Ziggy the Otter Learns to Swim at Oregon Zoo


Ziggy, a two-month-old North American River Otter at the Oregon Zoo, is living up to his name as he learns to swim with the help of his mom, Tilly.

Photo Credit:  Shervin Hess, courtesy Oregon Zoo

The pup, born November 8 and named after Oregon’s Zigzag River, is growing into his name, keepers say — zigging this way and that and scampering away from his mom, Tilly, when she tries to lead him indoors.  “He’s a little motorboat,” said senior keeper Julie Christie. 

“Otter pups are very dependent on their mother and they don’t know how to swim right away,” said Christie. “The mother actually has to teach them.”

Tilly is experienced in giving swim lessons – Ziggy’s older brother Molalla, nicknamed Mo, learned to swim under her tutelage just last year. 

Recently Tilly has been offering similar instruction to Ziggy, nudging her new pup to the water’s edge and then plunging in with a firm grip on the scruff of his neck, just as Otter moms do in the wild.

“Tilly has been teaching Ziggy to do some deep dives,” Christie said. “Otter pups are very buoyant, so it takes them a little bit to learn how to go underwater.”

Both of Ziggy’s parents — mom, Tilly, and dad, B.C. — are rescue animals who had a rough start to life.

Tilly was found orphaned in 2009. She was about 4 months old, had been wounded by an animal attack and was seriously malnourished. Once her health had stabilized, Tilly came to the Oregon Zoo.   B.C. was also orphaned in 2009 and after being taken in by the Little Rock Zoo, moved to Oregon as a companion for Tilly.

North American River Otters are relatively abundant in healthy river systems in parts of their range, but were extirpated (locally extinct) in many areas of the United States in the 20th century.  Thanks to reintroduction programs, Otters have been reestablished in several states.