The Rosamond Gifford Zoo is home to two new North American River Otters. The adorable male pups were born March 8th to six-year-old mom, ‘Brie’, and nine-year-old dad, ‘Johann’, and the cheese-tastic newborns have been named ‘Monterey’ and ‘Jack’.
The pups weighed about four ounces at birth and were born blind. Newborn otters don’t open their eyes till about four to five weeks of age, and they require significant care by their mother in order to survive. Due to this fact, and Brie’s previously unsuccessful attempts at rearing offspring, zoo staff installed cameras in the otter’s nest box. This has allowed keepers to monitor her pregnancy, and due to their observations, staff made the decision to pull her pups for hand-rearing.
“It is always exciting to have new babies at our zoo. Our animal staff has had remarkable success over the years in hand-rearing animals. I wish them continued success with these new otter pups and commend them for their hard work,” said County Executive Joanne M. Mahoney.
“We are very pleased to welcome Monterey and Jack and look forward to their growth and development over the next few months,” says Zoo Director Ted Fox. “Their father, Johann, is extremely energetic and a guest favorite. The eventual introduction of the pups to the otter exhibit will prove to be a very exciting time for our guests and staff.”
Monterey and Jack will be introduced to the otter exhibit at a later date. For now, the zoo intends for guests to observe feedings. While the pups are being raised behind the scenes, parents Brie and Johann can still be seen daily in the otter habitat, located in the social animal area of the zoo.
The River Otter’s body is long and cylindrical, with a tail that is thick at the base and tapers at the end. The River Otter’s feet are flat and webbed for swimming and paddling in or under the water. Their outer fur is chocolate brown to pale chestnut in color. They have weak vision, acute hearing and a well-developed sense of smell. Their vocalizations vary from shrill chirps to screams, grunts or coughs.
Otters are active during the day and night. They are highly intelligent and extremely curious animals. Their diet in the wild consists of fish, frogs, crayfish, aquatic invertebrates, birds, rodents and rabbits. At the Rosamond Gifford Zoo, they are given live fish for enrichment.
The North American River Otter has been virtually eliminated in many parts of their native range, especially around heavily populated areas in the Midwest and eastern United States. However, the River Otter wild population is not currently declining at a rate sufficient for a threat category, and they are classified as “Least Concern” on the IUCN Red List.