River Museum in Dubuque introduces orphaned river otter to resident otter in need of companion

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DUBUQUE, Iowa (KWQC) - The River Museum in Dubuque announced the arrival of an orphaned North American river otter on Tuesday, after she was successfully introduced to the museum's resident male river otter.

The River Museum in Dubuque announced the arrival of an orphaned North American river otter on Tuesday, after she was successfully introduced to the museum's resident male river otter. (National Mississippi River Museum and Aquarium)

The orphaned male was in need of a companion, so when staff found out there was another young orphaned otter in the state, they got to work planning the introduction.

"We were contacted about the female river otter shortly after we made plans to bring the male otter to the River Museum," said Abby Urban, Curator of Living Collections. "We'd been expecting to find the male otter a potential companion through our partners within the Association of Zoos and Aquariums; however, finding out about another young orphaned otter within the state in need of placement took us by surprise. A lot of work went into pre-planning, care, and management of both animals to ensure they were healthy and that the introduction would go smoothly."

Staff introduced the otters slowly.

The female river otter was housed separately at first before introducing her to other resident animals. She was then given an opportunity to explore the male otter's habitat and get used to his scent, while the male otter was put in the female otter's area for the same purpose.

Next, the otters were placed in separate spaces where they could see, hear and smell each other.

"The otters made vocalizations toward one another like squeaks and chirps," said Urban. "There were no signs of stress, and we saw positive indicators this introduction would go well."

When they finally physically met, they showed immediate interest in one another, rolling around, squeaking and playing.

"The female appeared to be actively leading their socialization and play," said Urban. "Over the next few weeks staff and our guests will be able to watch the personalities of these otters develop further as they get to know one another."

The two otters are now together in the museum's Flooded Forest habitat.

The River Museum also has a third river otter named Momma. Because of her age and temperament, she lives in a separate but adjacent habitat.