On January 31st, 2017 a pair of otter pups were born at Washington Park Zoo. This is the fourth time in seven years that the Washington Park Zoo has welcomed the birth of River Otters. Although we are giving the mom plenty of privacy to raise her pups, our keeper staff are keeping a close watch on the new family and tracking the babies’ growth by taking their weights weekly. We have one female and one male pup, who are currently nursing from their Mom, but will eventually be eating fish, a balanced chow and a zoo meat diet, as well as plenty of enrichment type foods.
A female River Otter delivers a litter of one to six pups after an eight-week gestation period and the newborn pups are silky black, blind, toothless, and helpless. The otter pups will stay off exhibit for at least the next seven weeks until they are confident enough and learn how to swim (believe it or not it's not instinctual) before leaving their night house. Until that time, the father and the zoo’s other female River Otter will be on display daily when the zoo opens for the season on April 1st.
Our indoor den area has a small pool so their mother will have plenty of space to raise her pups. When otter pups are around two months old, they will get their first swimming lesson when their mother pushes them into the water. Since the new mom is very attentive, with her supervision and encouragement the pups should catch on to their water skills quickly.
At one time River Otters were found living throughout much of North America, including Indiana, but in 1942 they were considered wildly extinct in the state. Today with the improvements in water quality and trapping management, along with a reintroduction effort, River Otters have started to make a wild population recovery, even in Indiana. A state wide reintroduction program began in 1995 which has been so successful that the River Otter has been removed from the Indiana endangered species list and placed on the protected species list as their numbers continue to grow. The closest that otters were released to Northwest Indiana was at the Tippecanoe River State Park near Winamac, but their increased numbers have brought their populations into the Kankakee River in Lake and Porter counties.
The Zoo opens for the season on April 1st daily from 10:00 a.m. to 4:00 p.m. (gate closes at 3:00 p.m.)
Approximately 200 animals call the Washington Park Zoo home. The Zoo opens for the season on April 1st, 2017. Hours of operation are 10am to 4pm daily (gate closes at 3:00pm). Regular admission is $7 for adults, $6 for senior citizens, $6 for children ages 3-11, and children under 2 are free.
For more information about the Washington Park Zoo, please visit the Zoo on Facebook or at www.washingtonparkzoo.com.