Wednesday, May 22, 2013

Well, I Otter...

Eryn and I went to the Otter Encounter at the MN Zoo.  Unlike the Penguin Encounter, which she went to with her mom, you don't get to touch the animals in the Otter Encounter.  I think it has something to do with the otters being five feet long, up to 100 pounds, and having a mouth full of very sharp teeth.  Not something you get with your average zoo penguin, not even the toughs they're harboring from the Minot Zoo.

The nice thing about being at the encounter on a school day was we were the only two individuals present.  So we had the otter, two zookeepers, and two zoo interns all to ourselves.  They answered all sorts of questions about otter distribution, otter impacts from runoff in California (might be cat liter), where otters hide their food (in their armpits), and much more.

You do get to put out food for them while they hang out in the pen next door.  This is a sled covered in ground clam for Capers the Sea Otter.  You can tell how excited Eryn is to touch ground clam.

I also learned that otters can stand on their webbed feet.  Most of the time, Capers slithered all over the place, but the zookeepers assured me he was just being lazy.

Back to putting out the food.  We got to hide it all over the place.  I felt pretty smart lifting up the big block of ice, which I could barely move with one hand, and stuffing a clam popsicle under there were it would be hard to find.

When he found it under the ice, he just put a paw under it and flipped it up.  Effortlessly.  Then he threw the iceberg in the water, slipped in, picked it up in his paws, and slammed it repeatedly against the edge of the cement until pieces broke off.  Just a bit strong than your average penguin.  We were also told that sea otters don't have a layer of blubber, so they spend a lot of time eating.  Up to 25% of their body weight in a day.  The storage area in their arm pits is so they can collect food for a while before lounging on their backs for a varied meal.

Capers liked to throw overly cold food in the water for a while, giving it a chance to thaw while he looked for additional goodies.

We did get to handfeed him through the plexiglass holes.

You get pretty close to those teeth.  But he's more interested in the clam popsicles than in anyone's fingers.

Posing with Capers the Otter.

He wants another clamstick, Eryn!  The zookeeper says post-encounter is big time nap time, they're generally so stuffed with food by that point.

Eryn posing with Capers the Sea Otter.  I made an animated gif out of this photo, but Eryn was moving, so it wasn't as funny as if it had just been the otter flipping his head back and forth.  I could cut the pictures and do it without Eryn, or splice her half of the photo into both halves of Capers' photos to keep her still.  If I get around to that, I'll post it.

This had nothing to do with otters.  But it was how I ended my trip to the zoo for the day.  I think the little bear is trying to look around me.  Eryn thinks he's sniffing my butt.

1 comment:

Larry Rubinow said...

The little bear knows a picture is being taken, and is therefore about to touch you inappropriately.