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Triplets double Detroit Zoo’s river otter population

ROYAL OAK, Mich., June 7, 2012 – For the first time in nearly 50 years, the Detroit Zoo is celebrating the birth of North American river otters.  Three pups – two males and a female – were born March 20 to mother Whisker, 9, and father Lucius, 6, doubling the Zoo’s river otter population.  The Zoo is also home to 11-year-old female Stormy.  

The female river otter delivers a litter of one to six pups after an eight-week gestation period.  At around two months, the young ones get their first swimming lesson when their mother pushes them into the water.  Otters are natural swimmers and, with maternal supervision, the pups quickly catch on.

“Whisker is an attentive mom and her pups are very cute and already good swimmers,” said Detroit Zoological Society Curator of Mammals Robert Lessnau.  

Males Slyde and Bobby and female Emmy can be seen showing off their newfound aquatic skills at the Detroit Zoo’s Edward Mardigian Sr. River Otter Habitat.  The naturalistic environment features an 8,200-gallon pool with a waterfall and waterslide, and the habitat is designed so that small children can view the otters at eye level as they swim.

The North American river otter (Lontra canadensis) can weigh 20-30 pounds, and its slender, cylindrical body can reach 2-3 feet in length.  The aquatic mammal sports short, dense, waterproof fur and profuse whiskers.  The playful river otter is swift on land as well as in the water, though its loping trot can look somewhat ungainly compared to its graceful slide through the water.

Once abundant in U.S. and Canadian rivers, lakes and coastal areas, river otter populations have suffered significant declines as a result of fur trapping, water pollution, habitat destruction, pesticides and other threats.  Today, they can be found in parts of Canada, the Northwest, the upper Great Lakes area, New England and Atlantic and Gulf Coast states.  

The otter pups make their debut just in time for the Detroit Zoological Society’s annual fundraiser, Sunset at the Zoo, on Friday, June 22, 2012.  Presented by Strategic Staffing Solutions, the gala event features a strolling supper, live entertainment, dancing, auction prizes and access to the Zoo’s award-winning animal habitats at twilight.  For information or to purchase tickets, visit www.detroitzoo.org/sunset.