An all-paws-on-deck effort is taking place behind the scenes at the Zoo hospital. In late May, we received a call alerting us that an orphaned North American river otter pup was taken in by rangers at a Maryland State Park and needed immediate care. The approximately 40-day-old pup was transported to the Zoo’s hospital for assessment.
Over the last few weeks, the healthy female pup has been getting around-the-clock care from our team, including multiple feedings, daily vet checks, and otter-appropriate enrichment. She’s been deemed non-releasable by rehab professionals and will continue to be cared for at the Zoo until she a permanently placed at another facility at the recommendation of the North American river otter Species Survival Plan.
June 20, 2023
OTTER PUPDATE: While snacking on smelt may o-fish-ally be the cutest thing ever, a lot of work goes into feeding the rescued river otter pup we’re caring for! Our animal care professionals currently give her a meal every 5 hours consisting of a mixture of formula, fish slurry, and small pieces of filleted herring.
When she arrived at just over a month old, she weighed about 3.5 pounds. She’s been steadily gaining weight over the last month and now weighs almost 6 pounds.
June 27, 2023
OTTER PUPDATE: Did you know that baby otters need swim lessons? Around 2 months old—the approximate age of the rescued pup we’re caring for at the Zoo hospital—young river otters begin the process of acclimating to life in the water.
Here at the Zoo, we dove right in when it came to introducing the pup to the pool. We began feeding and giving her enrichment in the empty pool before slowly raising the water level. Currently, she’s splashing and playing in the water at half-full!
June 30, 2023
OTTER PUPDATE: To ensure the otterly best health of the rescued river otter we’re caring for, our veterinarians give the pup a checkup every single day. This includes an examination of her overall body condition (mouth, coat, paws, etc.) and a weight check to make sure she’s hitting all of her growth milestones. Two thumbs, err paws, up so far!
July 3, 2023
OTTER PUPDATE: Peekaboo The rescued river otter pup we’re caring for at the Zoo hospital loves to explore, so we have been offering her a variety of enrichment items—like this giant tube!
July 7, 2023
OTTER PUPDATE: At two months old, young river otters are following mom around and tussling with siblings. To help mimic sibling playmates in this professional care setting, we’ve provided the rescued pup we’re caring for at the Zoo hospital with plush otters and other stuffed animals to wrestle with! This enrichment helps to strengthen her muscles and support her natural instincts.
July 10, 2023
OTTER PUPDATE: Sound up for satisfying ASMR snacking. The rescued river otter pup we’re caring for at the Zoo hospital has weaned off of formula. Her diet now consists of small pieces of cut-up fish—herring, smelt, and capelin—prepared by our commissary keepers!
July 19, 2023
OTTER PUPDATE: *grumble grumble* River otters make a variety of sounds from danger calls to playful chittering. Listen closely to hear chirps, grumbling, and other noises from the rescued pup we’re caring for at the Zoo hospital!
July 23, 2023
OTTER PUPDATE: The structure of a river otter’s fur keeps them “waterproof,” with long guard hairs that repel water and dense shorter hairs that keep them warm. That being said, it’s still important for an otter dry off when leaving the water to regulate its temperature.
Otters will run themselves on the ground to help remove water and then spend time grooming afterward to keep their coat in good condition. The rescued otter pup we’re caring for at the Zoo hospital very efficiently dries herself off with a pile of towels we provide her for this behavior!
July 28, 2023
OTTER PUPDATE: It’s pool season and the rescued river otter pup we’re caring for at the Zoo hospital now has access to her pool 24/7!
After outgrowing the baby pool, we moved the pup to a deeper tub before finally settling her in a larger space with an in-ground pool. She is now consistently swimming on her back, scavenging for food underwater, and interacting with enrichment in the water.
August 1, 2023
PUPDATE PSA: While we love sharing updates about the river otter pup at the Zoo hospital and the amazing milestones she’s achieving, it’s important to remember that she is being cared for by trained professionals. Otters are wild animals that do not make good pets.
August 6, 2023
OTTER PUPDATE: Targeting is a basic foundation of our animal training programs and a huge step for the rescued river otter we’re caring for at the Zoo hospital! The aim is for the pup to touch her nose to a target in exchange for food reinforcement, which is helpful in moving her around the habitat.
Once she begins to understand this skill, our care team will use the target to assist with her routine medical needs like stepping on the scale for weights. Beginning a training program provides mental stimulation for the pup and allows her to participate in her own healthcare!
August 9, 2023
OTTER PUPDATE: Apples, carrots, and crickets, oh my! We’re beginning to offer the rescued river otter pup new foods at the Zoo hospital. Not only does a diverse diet provide her with well-rounded nutrition, it also enriches her environment.
Insects are a great protein source and can help elicit her natural hunting and foraging behaviors. The pup also enjoys chasing after fruits and veggies in her pool. These stimulating feeding activities contribute to her overall well-being and growth, plus it’s tons of fun!
August 15, 2023
OTTER PUPDATE: Sun’s out, pup’s out! Every day is an adventure for the rescued otter pup as she learns to navigate her new outdoor paradise at the Zoo hospital. The large yard boasts a pool, hammock, slide, and other fun enrichment toys. From chasing her own reflection in the shimmering water to basking in the warm weather, she’s truly living her best life.
August 24, 2023
OTTER PUPDATE: Otterly amazing progress continues at the Zoo hospital. When the rescued river otter arrived at just over a month old, she was a tiny pup—only 3.5 lbs. Now approximately 4 months old, she’s tripled in size, tipping the scales at a whopping 11 lbs!
September 6, 2023
OTTER PUPDATE: Summer sure made a comeback this week, but the rescued river otter pup at the Zoo hospital found the perfect way to cool off on these scorching days—frolicking in the sprinkler! Sound up to hear the little pitter-patter of her wet feet.
September 12, 2023
OTTER PUPDATE: + + =
Ice treats are a great way for the rescued river otter pup to cool down (not to mention delicious). Plus, this special enrichment encourages our adorable Zoo hospital resident to use her natural instincts like smelling and clawing!
September 21, 2023
OTTER PUPDATE: Guess who’s packing their bags for a mysterious journey? The rescued river otter pup at the Zoo hospital is training for transportation! We use a target to move the pup in and out of a mobile crate, slowly shutting the door to acclimate her to the enclosed space. Stay tuned for the big reveal!
September 27, 2023
OTTER PUPDATE: There’s so much exciting news about the rescued North American river otter pup we’ve been caring for at the Zoo hospital since May.
First, she has a name! The team that has been diligently tending to her, including overnight feedings when she first arrived and more, chose the name Nora for the pup. Not only did three different team members independently suggest that this name fits her, but it’s also an anagram for the common abbreviation for her species N.A.R.O.
While it is a big deal, it was not a far distance – she has moved down to the main river otter habitat! After an acclimation period, otter lovers will have the chance to see her at the Zoo.
Since we know that Nora is not a candidate for rereleased to her native habitat, this is a natural next step for her to get comfortable seeing Zoo guests and being an ambassador for her special at an accredited facility.
Support Her Care
Limited Edition Otter Pup Adoption Package – $85
Each premium package includes:
- A frameable photograph of the otter pup
- Two (2) one-time-use Zoo tickets valid for one year*
- Otter plush
- Personalized official animal adoption certificate
- An animal fun fact sheet
- Free shipping & handling
Rescued River Otter Pup Original Artwork – $200 (5×5), $300 (8×10), $500 (9×12)
Each painting includes:
- One (1) original painting created by the rescued river otter pup
- A frameable photograph of the rescued river otter pup
- A certificate of authenticity
- Free shipping & handling