Mia, one of ZooMontana’s two North American River Otters, unexpectedly gave birth to four pups February 19th, becoming the fourth litter of River Otters to be born at ZooMontana. Her last litter was nearly one year ago to the day. However, this year, for an unknown reason, the mother rejected the litter. The four pups were small, each weighing between three and four ounces. Amazingly, the pups were found by zookeepers after the mother hid them. All four were near death from the cold but were revived and warmed by zookeepers that morning.
ZooMontana zookeepers took on 24-hour feedings to give the pups a fighting chance. For about 3 months, the keepers were feeding the pups every 3 hours! Zoo Curator Travis Goebel is happy with the pup’s first week of progress. “My team of keepers are doing a remarkable job at caring for these pups. They have dedicated their last week to ensuring these little guys have the best chance at survival, and that dedication will extend for months. I’m proud of them.” Goebel said. Sadly, in June of 2018, one of the pups passed away due to an infection near the kidney. The remaining three continue to thrive and are now close to 10 pounds each. Visitors can catch a glimpse of the youngsters and they explore their exhibit at 12:45pm Thursday-Monday.
ZooMontana’s River Otters are part of the Association of Zoos and Aquariums Species Survival Program, a program that manages the breeding of a species to maintain a healthy and self-sustaining zoo population that is both genetically diverse and demographically stable. North American River otters are members of the weasel family. They hunt at night and feed on whatever might be available. Fish are a favorite food, but they also eat amphibians, turtles, and crayfish. Otters are very sensitive to water pollution and are often the first indicators of poor water quality. If you are interested in helping donate to the care of the pups, contact ZooMontana at (406) 652-8100 or send donations to 2100 S. Shiloh Rd., Billings, MT 59106.