Tennessee Aquarium Otters Now At Chattanooga Arboretum And Nature Center

Temporary Home Provides More Care And Training Opportunities

Friday, November 8, 2013 - by Thom Benson
Aquarium otter
Aquarium otter
- photo by John Kelley

A bevy of five North American River Otters are another step closer to their home at the Tennessee Aquarium. The animals have been moved from a facility in South Carolina to new temporary quarters at the Chattanooga Arboretum and Nature Center. This move comes after the Aquarium was saddened by the unexpected loss of “Pete,” one of the Aquarium’s beloved otters.

Looking Back:

The Aquarium is making dramatic improvements to the Cove Forest to triple the size of the original otter exhibit. This extensive construction project meant that Pete and Delmar would need to be housed at another location. Four additional otters, recently acquired by the Aquarium, were being cared for at a facility in South Carolina. So Pete and Delmar were moved to join, and acclimate with, this group of otters.

Prior to leaving the Aquarium, Pete and Delmar were given thorough physical examinations that included blood work and x-rays. Both animals were deemed healthy and fit for travel. Upon arrival they behaved normally and ate well. Delmar remained vigorous, but Pete began declining within days of his arrival.

As much as the Aquarium staff wanted to pinpoint the cause of death, test results from a post-mortem examination were inconclusive.

Re-evaluating needs:

“After losing Pete, we stepped back to re-examine our interim holding plans,” said Jackson Andrews, the Aquarium’s director of husbandry and operations. “It became apparent that we wouldn’t be able to work from a remote location and still accomplish all of the husbandry goals necessary to open the new exhibit.”

The Aquarium was able to forge a new, mutually beneficial partnership  with the Nature Center to construct a temporary home for the otters in Chattanooga. This allows the Aquarium’s otter keepers and staff veterinarian to be responsible for the daily care of the otters. In addition, the Nature Center will gain increased holding capacity for other animals once the Aquarium’s new otter exhibit opens.

Looking forward:

The otters’ temporary living quarters at the Nature Center, which is not open to the public, is set up to function much like their future home at the Aquarium. The various groups will have a large common area to explore with separate holding space for each group. Keepers will target train the otters to present their teeth and paws for examination as well as step onto a scale to be weighed. They will also learn to follow cues to go on and off exhibit. This will ensure that all Aquarium guests will be able to see otters scampering around and gracefully swimming in the new exhibit.

Teaching these behaviors in advance will make the transition to their new home much smoother. “Some individuals respond quickly to positive reinforcement, while other animals may take longer to pick up on our cues,” said Mr. Andrews. “The extra time we’ll gain working directly with the otters gives the animals more time to build trust and rapport with our staff."

Once the new exhibit opens at the Aquarium, these otters will take turns playfully exploring their new home. “Two of the males are already bonding well and getting along quite nicely,” said Mr. Andrews. “The juvenile male and female are both orphans and they also behave well together. Our goal is to get Delmar and all of the otters accustomed to spending time with one another in a shared space.”

Meanwhile, building the new exhibit in the Aquarium is on schedule. The challenging demolition work is over and crews are now busy with the construction phase. Once open, the otters will have a large, multi-tiered space to explore, including waterfalls and a flowing stream. Visitors will also have three times the viewing area to watch their antics. “I think our guests will be thrilled by the dramatic changes they’ll experience when the new otter exhibit opens in early May 2014,” said Mr. Andrews. 

Aquarium otter
Aquarium otter
- Photo2 by John Kelley

TFWC Votes To Begin Setting Hunting, Fishing Regulations Every Other Year

The Tennessee Fish and Wildlife Commission voted to establish hunting and fishing regulations every two years, rather than on an annual basis. The decision for the change came at the TFWC’s March meeting, which ended Wednesday at the Tennessee Wildlife Resources Agency’s Region II Ray Bell Building. Beginning in 2018, the hunting regulations will be set on the even years. ... (click for more)

Crabtree Farms Spring Plant Sale And Festival Set For April 6-8

Crabtree Farms will hold their 18th Annual Spring Plant Sale & Festival on Friday, April 6 through Sunday, April 8.  Gardeners come to fulfill their dreams – to obtain a plethora of edible delights.    “More than 300 varieties of sustainably grown vegetable, fruit, herb and flower seedlings make this event unique,” said Avery Patten, Crabtree’s spokesperson.  ... (click for more)

Alexander Says Chickamauga Lock Construction Fully Funded For 4th Consecutive Year

Senator Lamar Alexander on Wednesday said the government funding bill will fully fund construction of Chickamauga Lock for the fourth consecutive year, providing up to $78 million – which is more than twice the amount of funding the project received last year.   Senator Alexander said he has made completion of Chickamauga Lock one of his top priorities as chairman ... (click for more)

Former Juvenile Court Magistrate Says Gay Marriage Is "Nothing You Put In Air Quotes"

A former magistrate at Juvenile Court, who claims she was fired by Judge Rob Philyaw because she is openly gay, said Wednesday that gay marriage "is nothing you put in air quotes." She referred to County Attorney Rheubin Taylor asking her about her ceremony in marrying another woman and raising his hands to form quote marks. Elizabeth Gentzler is suing Hamilton County, Judge ... (click for more)

Avoid Underage Drinking And Other Prom Drama

My high school prom took a dramatic turn when two guys got their tuxedo jackets mixed up. One of them belonged to my date, who kindly offered to keep my wallet in his pocket. That’s the jacket another young man mistakenly grabbed off the back of a chair before heading to an underage drinking party that got shut down by police well after midnight—as kids scattered in every direction.  ... (click for more)

Roy Exum: The Famed Freitas Speech

Several weeks ago a member of the Virginia House of Delegates (that’s what Virginia calls the state legislature) stood up and before that body responded to a claim by a Democratic lawmaker that Republicans were pro-Second Amendment and segregationists. Nick Freitas, who did two tours in Iraq with our Army’s Special Forces and has talked candidly about losing friends to terrorist ... (click for more)