The Pueblo Zoo is excited to share news of the birth of two North American River Otters. The pups were born to mom Freyja on March 8.
This is the second litter for Freyja, and the newest arrivals will stay with their mom, in the nest box, for at least eight weeks.
Freyja will have her hands full for the next few months. The pups will need to master their swimming skills before they can be visible to the public in the Zoo’s Otter Exhibit.
The North American River Otter (Lontra canadensis) is native to much of Canada and the United States (except for portions of the Southwest), and in Mexico-- in the Rio Grande and Colorado River delta areas.
They can thrive in any water habitat---as long as the habitat provides adequate food: ponds, marshes, lakes, rivers, estuaries and marshes (cold, warm or even high elevation).
They have thick, protective fur to help them keep warm while swimming in cold waters. They have short legs, webbed feet for faster swimming, and a long, narrow body and flattened head for streamlined movement in the water. A long, strong tail helps propels them through the water.
The River Otter can stay underwater for as much as eight minutes. They have long whiskers, which they use to detect prey in dark or cloudy water and clawed feet for grasping onto slippery prey. They are very flexible and can make sharp, sudden turns that help them catch fish. Their fur is dark brown over much of the body, and lighter brown on the belly and face. On land they can run at speeds of up to 15 miles per hour.
Their diet consists of a variety of aquatic wildlife: fish, crayfish, crabs, frogs, birds’ eggs, birds and other reptiles such as turtles. They have also been known to eat aquatic plants and to prey on other small mammals, such as muskrats or rabbits. They are known to have a very high metabolism and need to eat frequently.
In the wild, River Otters breed in late winter or early spring and generally give birth to one to three pups. The young are blind and helpless when born and first learn to swim after about two months. River Otters generally live alone or in small social groups.
The North American River Otter is currently classified as “Least Concern” on the IUCN Red List of Threatened Species. However, habitat degradation and pollution are major threats to their conservation. They are said to be highly sensitive to pollution, and the species is often used as a bio indicator because of its position at the top of the food chain in aquatic ecosystems.