BEND, Ore. (KTVZ) — Visitors to the High Desert Museum will have their first official opportunity to see the new baby North American river otter on Wednesday, when it joins two other otters all day at the Autzen otter exhibit.
The museum celebrates the addition of the male pup, now approximately 5 1/2 months old, at 2:30 p.m. Visitors can see the pup, which has yet to be named, as well as the two other male otters in the museum’s care, Brook and Pitch. Naturalists will be at an otter feed interpretation station to share interesting scientific facts about this mammal, as well as pelts, skulls and other interactive items to keep visitors engaged.
“North American river otters are so playful and engaging, and they can teach us so much about riparian ecosystems,” said museum curator Dana Whitelaw, Ph.D. “We are pleased that the public can share the excitement of welcoming this new addition to the museum.”
Wednesday is also Senior Citizens’ Day at the museum, and admission is free for those aged 65 and over. Senior Day is made possible by Mid Oregon Credit Union.
Visitors can also access otter activities beyond this Wednesday. Naturalists will continue to participate regularly in October from 10:00 a.m. to 1:00 p.m. at the Otter Feed Interpretation Station, which will be located at the Autzen Otter Exhibition from Wednesday. And until November, naturalist talks about otter encounters are held daily at 1:00 p.m. in the otter exhibit.
Wednesday is not the baby’s first time in the Autzen Otter exhibition. He was introduced in cans over the months to help him gain confidence in the habitat and to introduce the three otters to each other. This was done under the supervision of the wildlife staff.
“We monitored early interactions when the baby otter was little to make sure everyone stayed safe,” said Jon Nelson, museum wildlife curator. “He’s not quite as big as the older otters but they all get along well and enjoy playing, eating and sleeping together. They do quite a bit of mischief and the baby keeps up with Pitch and Brook.”
Before being exposed to show habitat, the pup also needed time in the water to become a proficient swimmer. Wildlife curators helped the otter splash in the museum’s stream and in a human children’s play pool before bringing it into the exhibit’s water.
The otter came into the museum’s care in May after it was found out of the water at a golf course near Sunriver. He was believed to be around 8 weeks old at the time, emaciated and severely dehydrated, and after several wildlife experts tried to locate his mother for nearly a week, the state decided he should remain at the museum.
“He wouldn’t have survived in the wild without his parents,” Nelson said. “This was a unique situation where this otter pup appeared to be rightfully orphaned.”
The pup, who weighed 2.4 pounds when he arrived, currently weighs around 15 pounds. In the wild, otters become independent around 12 months of age.
“Caring for a young otter is intense work, and our wildlife team did an incredible job juggling early 24-hour bottle feeding and supervising the otter during that time,” Whitelaw said.
This isn’t the first young otter to come into the museum’s care. Pitch was found along the Metolius River and brought to the museum in 2017, and wildlife staff raised him from around 7 weeks of age.
Brook, the other male otter, is about 10 years old. In March, a third river otter, Rogue, 12, was humanely euthanized after his health rapidly deteriorated. Otters live around eight to nine years in the wild and often longer in human care.
The museum takes care of more than 130 animals, from otters to birds of prey. All animals cannot be released, mainly due to injury or because they have become accustomed to it – meaning they have become too accustomed to humans and may never have learned how to hunt or avoid predators. At the museum, they act as ambassadors, educating visitors about the conservation of high desert species and landscapes.
The opportunity to name the new otter was auctioned off in August at the High Desert Rendezvous, the museum’s biggest fundraiser of the year. The highest bidder has yet to choose the name.
ABOUT THE MUSEUM:
The HIGH DESERT MUSEUM opened in 1982 in Bend, Oregon. It brings together wildlife, cultures, art, history and nature to convey the wonders of North America’s high desert. The museum is a 501(c)3 nonprofit organization, accredited by the American Alliance of Museums, is a Smithsonian affiliate, received the 2019 Charles Redd Award for Exhibition Excellence from the Western Museums Association, and received the 2021 National Medal for Museum and library service. To learn more visit highdesertmuseum.org and follow us on Facebook, Instagram and Twitter.