Nature Matters: Enrichments Keep Aquarium Otters Active

By KBJR News 1

November 27, 2012 Updated Nov 27, 2012 at 2:57 PM CDT

Duluth, MN (NNCNOW.com)
Is this the Great Lakes Aquarium's new human exhibit?
Nah, it's Tara Lieberg giving the river otters one of their daily enrichments.
Enrichments are treats a little out of the ordinary like dog hair and frozen whitefish.

"It's good to keep their brains active. That's why we gave them today frozen whitefish. It's really important just because it's frozen; it's a different texture and temperature." said Lieberg.

Now that winter–like weather is here, wild otters likely may bump into a frozen fish or two.
They're non–hibernators and will be out all winter long.

"They have two layers of fur: a guard layer and then their under–fur that's like wearing wool long johns under your rain coat." said Alexis Berke.

Other enrichments for the aquarium otters include snow brought into their display so they can put their guard fur to winter style use.
They also stay mentally active by painting.

"They do what we'd call finger painting. I suppose they call it paws, nose and tail painting and they make some very creative pieces of art." said Jack Lavoy.

Those pieces are then sold to help fund the aquarium.
Customers have come from as far away as Britain and South Korea.
The painting and food enrichments may not be as varied as what a wild otter may find in nature but they do keep the aquarium animals from self destructive activities.

"It's a sign of boredom. We don't see that in our otters so that's a good thing. We're really trying to not see that so that's why we give them enrichments at least three times a day."

In Duluth for Nature Matters, Dave Anderson reporting.

If you'd like to see the otters get their enrichments, the Aquarium puts on a little presentation daily at two p.m.