A photo of an otter jumping into water

Evaluating a habitat expansion for North American river otters

In 2017, the Edward Mardigian Sr. River Otter Habitat at the Detroit Zoo was modified to increase the land and shallow water area available to the North American river otters. The new outdoor area features a flowing stream, pine trees and a sandy beach where the otters can play and rest. To help measure the impacts of these habitat modifications, staff from the Center for Zoo and Aquarium Animal Welfare and Ethics conducted behavioral observations on the otters before and after the renovation. Researchers documented how the habitat was used and examined changes in behavior and substrate use. Observations are ongoing to explore seasonal differences in the behavior of the otters in their expanded home.