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Thompson Park Zoo new river otters growing rapidly (VIDEO)


One month into their lives, two new river otter pups at the New York State Zoo at Thompson Park have grown rapidly.

Just look at the scale.

“They’ve just been growing at a steep curve,” said Sue M. Sabik, the zoo’s general curator.

The unnamed pups, one male and one female, were born on Feb. 16. The male pup, who weighed about 1.9 pounds on Tuesday, shot up to about 2 pounds on Wednesday. Similarly, the female pup jumped from about 1.7 pounds to about 1.8 pounds in the same time frame.

The pair are days away from opening their eyes for the first time, and are growing teeth.

“Now they start to hurt you,” said John T. Wright, zoo executive director.

According to the state Department of Environmental Conservation, male river otters grow to about 44 inches long, while females grow to about 38 inches. River otters range in weight from about 10 to 30 pounds.

Just as remarkable as their growth, Ms. Sabik said, are the maternal instincts of the pups’ first-time mother, 4-year-old Annie. Zoo staff were not sure how well Annie, who grew up an orphan and was hand-raised by humans, would do in the role. About one month in, she has received rave reviews.

“We lucked out,” Ms. Sabik said. The pups’ father is the zoo’s 8-year-old, Otis.

In addition to keeping the two pups healthy, Annie has kept a calm demeanor as zoo staff take the pair away for weigh-ins, helping lower the overall stress level.

The pups have major milestones ahead. The first, opening their eyes, could come as soon as next week. Pups typically don’t open their eyes until 30 to 40 days after their birth.

Down the road, the pups will have to learn how to swim, with a bit of motherly prodding.

At the beginning, Ms. Sabik said, Annie will drag and drop her pups into a shallow water dish. In the future, she may briefly hold the pups underwater to test their abilities.

“The first time you see it, you’re like, ‘Oh no!’” Ms. Sabik said.

Despite the violent appearance of their training, the pups eventually will develop the skills to swim on their own.

“It’s out of survival,” Ms. Sabik said.

Video of the new otters can be seen at

New otters at Thompson Park Zoo
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