SEATTLE — Valkyrie and Ziggy, Woodland Park Zoo’s river otters, are new parents.
Valkyrie gave birth to four river otter pups on March 16. The baby otters — two males and two females — are the first offspring for mom Valkyrie and dad Ziggy, both 5 years old. They weighed 10-12 ounces (yes, ounces) at birth.
It’s the first river otter birth documented in the zoo’s 119-year history, according to a news release.
Pups, as baby river otters are called, are born blind and completely helpless, relying solely on mom for care during their first year. They open their eyes at about a month old.
Over the next several weeks, Valkyrie and her pups will remain in an off-view, climate-controlled den where the new family can nurse and bond in a quiet environment. Animal care staff are closely monitoring the new family via a den cam.
“The first year is crucial for otter pups. Because Valkyrie is a first-time mother, we want to be sure she’s providing appropriate care for each pup,” said Deanna DeBo, an animal care manager at Woodland Park Zoo. “We’re happy to report each pup has a fully belly, a good sign they’re nursing. She’s being a good mom and providing attentive maternal care.”
The father, Ziggy, is currently separated and can be seen in the Northern Trail exhibit with the zoo’s other river otter, a 21-year-old male named Duncan.
Valkyrie and Ziggy were introduced to each other in 2015 under a breeding recommendation through the Association of Zoos & Aquariums’ Otter Species Survival Plan, a conservation breeding program across accredited zoos and aquariums to help ensure a healthy, self-sustaining population of otters.
North American river otters are semi-aquatic members of the weasel family. Their habitat ranges over most of North America in coastal areas, estuaries, freshwater lakes, streams and rivers; they can be found in water systems all over Washington state. River otters consume a wide variety of prey such as fish, crayfish, amphibians and birds. At the top of the food chain, river otters are an excellent reflection of the health of local ecosystems.
All otter species are considered threatened while five of the 13 species are endangered due to water pollution, overfishing of commercial stock and habitat destruction. To help Woodland Park Zoo contribute information to sustainable breeding, husbandry and public awareness of the river otter, adopt the species through the zoo’s ZooParent program.
Zoo hours through April 30 are 9:30 a.m. to 4:00 p.m. daily. For more information or to become a zoo member, visit www.zoo.org or call 206.548.2500.