River otters return to the Ecomuseum

The revamped habitat now extends over 6,000 square feet and features a pond area 55 times the size of the previous one


Three new tenants with familiar faces have moved into the Ecomuseum Zoo in Ste. Anne de Bellevue. After a series of renovations that cost $1.4 million, the river otter habitat now houses two males and a female, and is open to the general public.

The revamped space now extends over 6,000 square feet and offers the otters a pond area 55 times the size of the previous one. The new outdoor habitat is meant to replicate the semiaquatic mammals’ natural environment, with sand, rock formations and a water basin filled with 250,000 litres of water to splash around in.

Another group of otters lived at the zoo until 2014, when they died of old age. The new otters were rescued from the fur market, where they might have been killed for fashion purposes, says Executive Director David Rodrigue.

The new habitat is part of the 2013-2017 fundraising campaign that also includes a new 1,056 square-foot indoor animal care unit complete with a maternity ward in case of reproduction. The habitat can accommodate up to eight otters.

There are three observation decks where visitors can watch the otters go about their daily routine. For younger animal enthusiasts, there is a small underwater glass tunnel where they can observe the animals from a different perspective.

Rodrigue says the otters are very popular because of their childlike playfulness.  “We want to build a relationship between humans and animals based on respect and cohabitation,” he says.

The otters will be incorporated into the children’s activities and educational programming. For example, there will be a ‘breakfast with the otters’ event, where visitors can feed the animals. There is also a play area where kids can test their otter-like skills by climbing and balancing on structures.

All the Ecomuseum’s animals are native to Quebec’s St. Lawrence Valley and include the Arctic fox, barn owl, black bear, gray wolf, and dozens of reptiles and fish. The zoo has been open since 1988 and takes in animals that have been rescued or cannot be reintegrated into the wild. 

The Ecomuseum is open every day from 9 a.m. to 5 p.m.

For more information, visit zooecomuseum.ca

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