Mia, one of ZooMontana’s two North American River Otters, unexpectedly gave birth to four pups on Feb. 19, becoming the fourth litter of River Otters to be born at ZooMontana.
Her last litter was nearly one year ago to the day, according to a ZooMontana press release issued Tuesday morning.
But this year, for an unknown reason, the mother rejected the litter. The four pups were small, each weighing between three and four ounces.
Amazingly, the pups were found by zookeepers after the mother hid them. All four were near death from the cold but were revived and warmed by zookeepers that morning, the press release states.
ZooMontana zookeepers have taken on 24-hour feedings to give the pups a fighting chance. Feedings are currently every 3 hours.
ZooMontana has elected to go public with this birth earlier than normal to showcase the amazing work being done by the zookeepers.
"The Zoo does want to make it clear that the chances of survival for the pups is low but does get better as each day passes," according to the press release. "The mother is in good health and going about her daily business. Once old enough, zookeepers will attempt to reintroduce the pups to their mother."
It typically takes 5 weeks until the pups eyes open.
Zoo Curator Travis Goebel said he is happy with the pup’s first week of progress.
“My team of keepers are doing a remarkable job at caring for these pups. They have dedicated their last week to ensuring these little guys have the best chance at survival, and that dedication will extend for months. I’m proud of them.” Goebel said.
ZooMontana’s River Otters are part of the Association of Zoos and Aquariums Species Survival Program, a program that manages the breeding of a species to maintain a healthy and self-sustaining zoo population that is both genetically diverse and demographically stable.
North American River otters are members of the weasel family. They hunt at night and feed on whatever might be available.
Fish are a favorite food, but they also eat amphibians, turtles, and crayfish. Otters are very sensitive to water pollution and are often the first indicators of poor water quality.
If you are interested in helping donate to the care of the pups, contact ZooMontana at (406) 652-8100 or send donations to 2100 S. Shiloh Rd., Billings, 59106.
ZooMontana shared these photos: