During the month when we honor mothers everywhere, we’d be remiss if we didn’t celebrate the animal moms of the Detroit Zoo. Ten-year-old North American river otter Whisker joined the ranks of motherhood last year when she gave birth to three pups. Zoo staffers say that Whisker, a zoo resident since 2009, was a natural at mommy duty, especially when it came to leading her little ones in swimming lessons.
The pups of Whisker and her mate, Lucius, have since moved on to other zoos for potential breeding. Once they’re fully grown, these aquatic mammals, with their short, dense, waterproof fur can reach a length of 2 to 3 feet, and weigh about 20 to 30 pounds.
Wild North American river otters (Lontra Canadensis) inhabit parts of Canada, the upper Great Lakes, and Gulf Coast states. Once abundant in U.S. and Canadian rivers, lakes, and coastal areas, river otter populations have suffered significant declines from fur trapping, water pollution, habitat destruction, pesticides, and other threats.
At the zoo, Whisker and the other otters enjoy vacation-like surroundings that include a 5,900-gallon pool, a waterslide, and a waterfall inside the Edward Mardigian Sr. River Otter Habitat. There, patrons can get an eye-level look at the critters as they show off their “otterly” impressive swimming skills.