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A Snowman for the Otters

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Animal Updates | Mammals | Volunteering

Thursday, December 06, 2012


An Annual Tradition Continued

During the annual Holiday Treats for the Animals festival it has become a tradition for me to build the first snowman of the season for the sea otters in their exhibit. I will be sharing some images and annecdotes on this year’s creation.

When the annual Holiday Treats for the Animals festival started a decade ago, on a whim I decided to make a small snowman for the sea otters using some of the snow imported into the Aquarium for decoration. Using ice treats made of blended clams to create eyes, ears and buttons and crab legs for the nose and arms, the snowman became an enrichment item for the three original Aquarium otters to explore and enjoy. Back then Brook would delicately pull the buttons off one by one and stash them in her armpit while Summer would efficiently retrieve the nose to munch on. Charley on the other hand just bowled it over seemingly getting delight out of tackling the man of snow like a football player.

The snowman for the otters over the years has evolved into a much larger creation that blends in nicely with the Winter Wonderland theme that we create in the exhibit each year. This year’s snowman is much stouter and taller than that original one. Brook still delicately pulls the buttons off while youngster Betty seemed like she was having fun trying to figure out what was edible on her first snowman. One of the adaptations I made over the years was to not just place the ice treat eyes, ears, nose, arms and buttons on the snowman but to actually fuse them into the body by using the warmth of my hands to melt the ice together. This made the ice treat a little harder to pull off so that the otters had to do a little problem solving to retrieve them, something that otters love to do. Maggie used her claws to surgically dig out one of the arms while my favorite otter, Gidget was content to pick out the treats buried in the snow around the base of the snowman. Ollie, after trying and failing to remove the eyes, came up with a unique solution of her own. She made like a Ninja Otter by placing both paws on each side of the head and twisted it sharply until it fell off. The trauma of the head hitting the ground loosened the treats and she was then able to easily pull them off.

While all this was going on with the girls Odin was enjoying his “spa day” in the back area of the exhibit getting his treats in relative peace and quiet.

The snowman is a unique enrichment item for the Aquarium of the Pacific’s sea otters and they really seem to enjoy it each year.

A Snowman for the Otters
Betty seems amazed at all the treats surrounding her first snowman.  | Hugh Ryono
A Snowman for the Otters
Ollie enjoying a treat next to the snowman.  | Hugh Ryono
A Snowman for the Otters
Betty and Maggie enjoying the Holiday Treats.  | Hugh Ryono
A Snowman for the Otters
Ollie really seems to enjoy the ice treats and snowman.  | Hugh Ryono

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