Up Close and Personal with the Otter Brothers

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ETHEL, LOUISIANA– Barn Hill Preserve in Ethel, Louisiana is a magical place.  Just a few short hours drive from New Orleans, and you are able to jump with kangaroos, bottle feed water buffalo and experience charming and charismatic sloths.  But there is another adventure that awaits!

Today, a few of us here at WGNO decided to get wild!  Taylor, our intern Blair and I got inside a swimming pool to try out one of their more interesting animal encounters… Today, we would swim with otters.

“They’re very friendly with people, they’ll come up to you and sniff you… And that is what they are doing right now,” says animal caretaker Abby Ligon.  As Taylor went to get changed Blair and I made our way into the pool area and were met by Milo and Ottis.  Once unleashed, the otter brothers would wreak havoc on what was expected to be a simple interview.

We learned quite a bite that day.  Barn Hill Preserve’s otter community are of the asian small-clawed otter variety.  They are the smallest of 13 species of otter, weighing in at less than ten pounds and measuring up to two feet.   All otters secret an oil from a gland in their tails which is important for many things, including keeping their fur in place when they go for a swim.

Although Milo and Ottis took the water with a playful precision, Caretaker Ligon says, “you’d be surprised that they hate to swim whenever they are raised by humans.  It’s an interest they have to learn.  In the wild, their mothers will throw them into the water and it’s sink or swim.”

Inquisitive little rascals, they have 12 different vocalizations and live in groups of 15 to 20 charismatic socialites.  They make their home in Asia, living near small streams, rivers, marshes, rice paddies and mangrove forests. There are four otters living at the preserve, including a baby.

“They are a joy to be around and friendly to people but they are very mischievous. They will tear stuff up.  If you like your shoes, put them up. They will tear them up. They like each other but it’s a love hate relationship and they are pretty stinky too to be honest,” says Caretaker Ligon.

As our adventure came to a close, we said our goodbyes and thanked the Barn Hill staff as well as the otter brothers for use of their pool.  Our encounter with Milo and Ottis  was over and simply unforgettable.

To meet Milo and Ottis for yourself, click here for more information.


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