seem to get along pretty well,” said Rico Walder, assistant
curator of forests. “We introduced them to each other
very slowly and now they seem pretty happy to share the exhibit.”
training does not mean these animals will be jumping through
hoops or balancing beach balls on their noses. The training
and enrichment program is designed to provide a daily routine
of activities that will encourage the
animals to be more active during daylight hours. The training
program also helps make routine medical exams and assessments
easier and simplifies the process of moving the animals into
holding areas during routine exhibit maintenance.
“When their training is complete, the
otters will respond to gestures, spoken words and will execute
certain behaviors on command,” McCarty said. “They
are also taught to touch their noses to the end of a dowel,
or target, to receive a reward. By target training them, we
will be able to get them to roll over, stand on a scale or
display their paws. This helps us get a complete assessment
of their general health.”
At the Aquarium, the river otters can be seen
swimming in a boulder-filled pool surrounded by rhododendron,
mountain laurel and wildflowers.
Otters are well-designed for swimming and living in cold mountain
streams. A member of the weasel family, an otter has an elongated
body, short legs, webbed feet and a long stout tail. Out of
the water it walks with an awkward humpbacked gait, sometimes
belly-sliding down muddy or snow-covered hills. On the surface
of the water it dog paddles, but underwater the otter swims
with its entire body, pushing with its webbed feet and steering
with its long tail. Its thick, sleek coat, which keeps it
dry and warm, is made up of two types of hair. The longer
outer hairs, called guard hairs, are water repellent.The guard
hairs protect the short, thick downy fur closest to the otter's
body. The downy fur traps air and keeps the otter warm.
What’s for dinner?
Unlike other species of otter (like well-known sea otter),
North American river otters catch prey with their mouths,
not their hands. Although otters are quick swimmers, their
skill is better shown in their ability to maneuver rapidly,
which helps them chase down prey.
• Common name: North American river otter
• Scientific name: Lontra canadensis
• These animals are found in streams, lake borders,
swamps and rivers of North, Central and South America.
• In the wild, they eat fish, frogs, crayfish, other
aquatic invertebrates, small turtles and turtle eggs, as well
• At the Aquarium, they can be found in the Appalachian
Cove Forest exhibit on level four of the River Journey building.
The Tennessee Aquarium inspires wonder and
appreciation for the natural world. Admission for both Aquarium
buildings is $17.95 per adult and $9.50 per child, ages 3-12.
Each ticket purchased helps support Aquarium conservation
programs. The IMAX® 3D Theater is next door to the Aquarium.
Ticket prices are $7.95 per adult and $5.50 per child. Aquarium/IMAX
combo tickets are $21.95 for adults and $12.50 for children.
Advance tickets may be purchased online at www.tnaqua.org
or by phone at 1-800-262-0695. The Aquarium, located on the
banks of the Tennessee River in Chattanooga, is a non-profit
organization. Open every day except Thanksgiving and Christmas,
the Aquarium and IMAX are accessible to people with disabilities.
Members enjoy unlimited visits and other benefits. Call 267-FISH