Staff members at the Alaska Zoo have had a busy summer taking care of two orphaned river otter pups.


The pair was brought in two months ago from Sand Point after a resident got fed up with an otter that built a den near his home.


“The otter mommy would come out every day and attack the guy’s dog. A lot of times, dogs kill otters and he didn’t want that to happen,” explained zoo curator Shannon Jensen. “So he live-trapped the otter and transported it far, far away.”


Jensen said it wasn’t until later the man discovered the otter pups.


To tell the little ladies apart, staff members put a red mark on one and have nicknamed her Rosa. The other has no mark and is called Nome.


They’ll be renamed by their new facilities when they get transferred. One will go to the aquarium in Denver, and the other will go to a new facility called the Wonders of Wildlife Museum and Aquarium in Springfield, Missouri.


“They will be split, but they’ll go to other facilities where they have single otters that need friends too,” Jensen said.


The zoo has taken in river otters before, which is how it got its three resident otters that are on exhibit. Jensen said this is the first time they’ve had to find different homes for otter pups, but that it wasn’t hard.


“Within an hour, I had 10 hits of people wanting them,” Jensen said.


She’s been taking on the role of the otter pups’ mom, feeding them and teaching them to swim.


“Weirdly enough, a river otter is not born wanting to swim, so typically the mother will take them and grab them and throw them in the water,” she laughed. “But we’re nicer, so we start them off in an inch of warm water.”


The zoo expects to transfer the pups to their permanent homes at the end of July. In the meantime, you can find them in the orphan facility at the back of the zoo where bear cubs are usually held.


KTVA 11’s Heather Hintze can be reached via email or on Facebook and Twitter.


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