Introducing a new category in this post today…a feature animal! When going to a zoo everyone has their favourite animal or those animals that they’re really excited to see. These may be snakes for some people, the elephant or lion for others. While each animal has draws for different people I feel there are some animals that appeal to everyone or are generally exceptional zoo species. Today’s feature is the North American River Otter (Lontra canadensis).
When describing the River Otter most people use the words ‘playful’, ‘charismatic’, or ‘energetic’…and with good reason! These little guys are full of energy and are always willing to entertain. In the wild they are found throughout North America more so in inland waterways (such as rivers, lakes, and the like) than on the coasts. There are 10 subspecies throughout North America so if you have some living near you, you can usually tell which one it is by location alone. They are very agile in the water with adaptations such as very streamlined bodies, webbed feet, and water-repellent fur. Their diet consists mainly of meat from fish, amphibians, and crustaceans.
As for River Otter exhibits in zoos I find the general design is consistent between the zoos I have seen them in as well as pictures of exhibits from other zoos. Usually the exhibit itself is open air with grass/logs/pebbles/rocks laid out to look like a river bank. In all the exhibits I have been to there was also a small waterfall feature that the animals could play in as well. Then there is the main water tank where the main viewing area is. Being as playful and energetic as they are they are a dependable exhibit to go to. They are also very curious and tend to interact through the glass with guests…either following you, doing tricks, or being general hams for the camera. You have to be quick though! They rarely stay still for a picture for long!
Otters are very susceptible to pollution in their environment. They are a great indicator of water pollution and unhealthy ecosystems…so if you have otters in your area (or used to!) you can help to support them by organizing garbage clean ups and water pollution awareness campaigns.
Overall I highly suggest going to see otters in a zoo near you, I guarantee no matter what your age you will be entertained!