The word “otter” is derived from the Old English word for water, but it may have been better fitting to name them after a word for “play.”
North American river otters are among the most playful animals at the Wildlife Conservation Society’s Prospect Park Zoo, gracefully swimming, swirling, and twirling in and out of the water.
Prospect Park Zoo has two otters named Oogie and Dixie. Oogie is a mature male of 9 years who came to Brooklyn from the Central Park Zoo. Dixie, who is just 2-years-old, was found abandoned by her mother in Louisiana. The Alexandria Zoo took her in and hand reared her, guaranteeing her survival, and then placed her with an older female so she could “learn to be an otter.”
Dixie has always been an independent animal – probably a characteristic learned from her early struggle to survive as an abandoned pup. In Louisiana, she was not cooperating with attempted introductions to a male otter, so she was sent to Brooklyn to see if she would get along better with Oogie.
Animal introductions are not always easy or successful. Oogie had been alone for a year and was pretty set in his ways. Initially, he was not thrilled to have someone new to share his toys and treats or his beautiful big pool. Prospect Park Zoo’s animal care staff worked carefully and persistently to make the introduction work. Dixie actually made it easier because this time, she seemed to be interested in this “native New Yorker.” Once again, the otter’s instinct for play helped save the day. Dixie continued to try to get Oogie to play with her and one day, it worked. (See a video of Dixie trying to charm Oogie in the photo gallery.)
Today, guests can see Oogie and Dixie play in their pool, snuggle together in their log, and sometimes compete for special treats like boiled eggs, a favorite. Zookeepers are especially excited to observe the two breeding this spring, right on schedule for the species. Hopefully little Dixie will have some pups later this year. Meanwhile, visitors can enjoy their antics (or see how cute they look even when sleeping in their log) on the zoo’s Discovery Trail.