The new otters participate in training sessions with keepers.
Posted April 2018
The northwest corner of the Milwaukee County Zoo just got a whole lot livelier not only with the splish and splash of North American River Otters, but also with the unveiling of an admissions, parking, concessions and merchandise area set to open Saturday, May 19.
To start, three female river otters, Emerald, Clover and Shamrock, will take up residence in a newly constructed outdoor exhibit, Otter Passage, greeting guests entering the Zoo at this location. Depending upon how the animals acclimate, the otters may rotate time on exhibit, and a male otter will eventually join the group, with the hope of establishing a breeding colony.
“We really wanted another signature exhibit to welcome guests at the new West Entrance, similar to the Humboldt Penguin Exhibit at the main entrance,” said Zoo Director Chuck Wikenhauser. “We were thinking of an animal native to North America and able to stay outside year round, and river otters fit the bill perfectly. Plus the fact they’re just so fun to watch!”
The exhibit features two pools, the deeper of which is 8-feet, splash pad, a river area with moving water and a 15-foot slide; components designed with animals’ needs and wellbeing in mind.
The exhibit’s land area includes different substrates like dirt, grass and rock. Zookeepers who
care for the otters expressed a need for the animals to have different materials in which to dig – keeping the active otters engaged and interested – and allowing them to show behaviors similar to what they would in the wild. An underwater viewing area, and an artificial hollowed-out tree for kids to enter for an up-close look at the otters’ den, add to the visitor experience. Guests can also watch keepers train the animals in two different areas.
The otters’ muscular, streamlined bodies have fully webbed feet bearing non-retractable claws, and eyes and ears perfectly situated high on their heads for surface swimming. A specialized third eyelid allows them to see underwater. Their highly muscular tails are well-designed to propel them through water as fast as 8 miles per hour! Their agile bodies allow them to quickly turn, twist, roll and dive, and they can frequently be seen sliding or burrowing in the mud or snow.
The river otters are clearing quarantine at the Animal Health Center, and will soon move to their new exhibit.
The Zoo’s otter romp (a group of otters is termed “romp”) will help educate visitors about the conservation work being done in the wetland areas throughout the country by AZA-accredited zoos to ensure that river otters remain a thriving species in the wild.
Sure to be “fan favorite,” otter-themed merchandise for purchase in this area include: T-shirts, hoodies, caps, snow globes, picture frames, pens, magnets, mugs and plush toys.
The new West Entrance, open daily at 10 a.m., May through October, includes an admissions area, in addition to concessions and merchandise, stroller rental and rest rooms.
For more information, please contact the Zoo at 414.771.3040.
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