Meet river otter Molalla at the Seattle Aquarium!

Molalla, river otter at the Seattle Aquarium

Molalla, our new, male North American river otter, is now on exhibit! Born at the Oregon Zoo on January 28, 2013 and named for a river in Oregon, he was transferred to the Seattle Aquarium last month. As noted in our earlier blog post, North American river otters are managed as part of an Association of Zoos & Aquariums (AZA) species survival plan, and it is through this plan that the recommendation was made for Molalla to reside at the Seattle Aquarium.

Molalla was in quarantine for observation for a short while then, once Aquarium biologists had a good understanding of his reactions to his new environment and responses to our other river otters through the protection of our holding area fences, an introduction plan was developed.

Molalla spent some time in the river otter exhibit by himself, while our other river otters (Waadah and Skagway) were placed in a holding area. He was also allowed to view Waadah and Skagway in the exhibit while in a holding area himself. After witnessing a sufficient number of vocalization exchanges and posturing between Molalla and the older river otters, Aquarium biologists made the decision to officially introduce them to one another. All three were given access to the entire river otter exhibit complex so they could choose to be in close proximity or separate themselves during their socialization process.

This lengthy socialization process is being carefully observed. All three males need to figure out who is the boss on any given day in an ever-changing social dynamic.  In the wild, males are often solitary but will form social groups if food resources are abundant, which is certainly the case at the Seattle Aquarium. We have seen lots of interesting behavior—including a unique one from Molalla: he’s been picking up rocks from the bottom of the pool and swimming around with them on his nose!

Come see Molalla in action for yourself at the Seattle Aquarium! And click here to learn more about North American river otters.

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2 Responses to Meet river otter Molalla at the Seattle Aquarium!

  1. Dennis says:

    Wondering why 3 males are together? Is there a plan to eventually breed them to have pups? Is one of the other males going to be exchanged for a female?

    • Hi Dennis,
      North American river otters in Association of Zoos and Aquariums (AZA) accredited zoos are managed nationally in what is called a Species Survival Plan. Based on the genetics of individuals throughout this population (who has bred with who), some zoos and aquariums are breeding facilities and some are designated not to breed. The Seattle Aquarium houses only males so we fall into the non-breeding category. In the wild, males are primarily solitary but if there is an abundant food source, which is certainly the case here at the Aquarium, males will form small bachelor groups and intermittently socialize together.

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