North American River Otters at The Living Planet Aquarium
Few animals convey a sense of joy and spontaneity like otters. Visitors to
The Living Planet Aquarium this year will have three new animals and a
unique new experience to enjoy. The playful river otter, native to Utah,
promises new opportunities for wild discovery and fun animal observation.
Undeniably cute, the river otter is a notoriously playful member of the
weasel family. They love to swim, slip and slide, whether in the mud during
summer or the snow in winter. They have even been observed playing tag
and “juggling” pebbles with their front paws!! Three male river otters will
be included among the Utah species featured in the Discover Utah Gallery.
They come to us from the Long Island Aquarium in Riverhead, NY where
they were born two years ago to wild-caught parents from Louisiana, where
populations are so healthy that nuisance animals are often caught for
relocation. “They need a new home because Long Island does not have
room for this many adult otters, and because inbreeding will become a
possibility as the youngsters grow” said Andy Allison, Curator of Animals.
“Shortly after arrival to The Living Planet Aquarium the otters will be trained
to enter their off-exhibit enclosures. They may rotate on and off exhibit to
encourage more activity while on exhibit” said Allison. Trained aquarists
will encourage the otters to demonstrate their species-typical behavior,
allow them to exercise control or choice over their environment, and to
enhance their well-being by offering them a variety of novel experiences.
Enrichment items will comprise of different categories including olfactory
(new smells), manipulative (something to play with such as food hidden
inside something), habitat (new logs or rocks in the enclosure), food (like
occasional treats they don’t see very often) and more.
At one time, river
otters were found throughout most of Utah’s waterways. Early records
report regular sightings of otters. Large quantities of Otter were known to
live in the streams of Utah in the 1830’s. It was soon after this that otters
seemed to disappear from Utah’s rivers, probably due to habitat
degradation, water pollution and unregulated trapping during settlement
Since the start of the 20th century, River Otters have not been
abundant in Utah and are protected by the Utah Wildlife Code. Trapping
and hunting North American River Otters is currently prohibited. The
exhibit will educate visitors about river otters, otter reintroduction efforts,
and release locations in Utah.
Oscar, Oliver, and Otis are available for
public viewing daily between 10 a.m. and 6 p.m., though they may be off
exhibit periodically depending on their needs or for training purposes. The
River Otter Exhibit, which is sponsored by Dolores S. Doré Eccles
Foundation, is a permanent exhibit located in the Discover Utah Gallery at
The Living Planet Aquarium.
For more information about The Living Planet
Aquarium visit www.thelivingplanet.com
725 East 10600 South Sandy, UT