Dane County’s Henry Vilas Zoo is thrilled to announce the birth of three North American river otters. The pups, two males and one female, were born on February 15 to first time parents Elva and Dragonroll. The pups were named after rivers in Wisconsin—Lily, Montello, and Fisher.
“We are so excited to have Lily, Montello, and Fisher join the Henry Vilas Zoo family,” said Dane County Executive Joe Parisi. “A huge thank you goes out to our staff for keeping these otter pups healthy. We are proud of the Henry Vilas Zoo’s ongoing education and conservation efforts and look forward to seeing these newest residents grow up.”
Otter pups are born blind and helpless, and their eyes remain closed until they are around five weeks old. They are raised solely by the female and won’t be introduced to Dragonroll until they are able to swim. Swim lessons start around six to eight weeks.
“We are beyond excited to welcome these pups,” said Zoo Manager Johanna Soto. “Elva is proving to be an excellent mother. And her close relationship with her keepers has allowed us to keep an eye on the pups every step of the way. Triplets can be demanding, especially for a first-time mom, but Elva has been doing great and they have been growing at a very health rate from day one.”
It can be hard to tell when an otter is pregnant because they, along with approximately 100 other species, go through a process called delayed implantation. Delayed implantation occurs when a fertilized egg is not immediately implanted in the uterus. River otters can delay implantation for longer than 270 days. Once an egg has been implanted, gestation is approximately 60 days.
“We work closely with the Association of Zoos and Aquariums to determine if and when to breed animals,” said Zoo Director Ronda Schwetz. “Otters usually have one to three pups, but it’s rare for a first-time mom to do this well with three babies.”
Dragonroll is currently out on exhibit, but guests who would like to visit the otter pups will have to wait until late May when the pups are strong enough swimmers to be out on exhibit. Henry Vilas Zoo will make an announcement on its website and social media pages once a public debut date is confirmed.
Henry Vilas Zoo is a free, AZA-accredited zoo that is open daily from 9:30am – 5:00pm. All guests ages 5 and up are required to wear a face mask at the zoo.