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A survey of abnormal repetitive behaviors in North American river otters housed in zoos

By P. Morabito, M. J. Bashaw

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Stereotypic behaviors, indicating poor welfare and studied in a variety of species (especially carnivores), appear related to characteristics of current and past environments. Although North American river otters (Lontra canadensis) often develop abnormal, repetitive, possibly stereotypic behaviors, no published reports describe otter housing and management or characterize how these variables relate to abnormal repetitive behavior (ARB) occurrence. The first author developed surveys to gather data on housing, individual history, management, and the prevalence of ARBs in otters housed in facilities accredited by the Association of Zoos and Aquariums. Consistent with anecdotal evidence that otters are prone to ARBs, 46% of river otters in the study exhibit them. ARBs were mostly locomotor and often preceded feeding. Exhibits where otters were fed and trained housed a greater percentage of nonhuman animals with ARBs. This study supports the Tarou, Bloomsmith, and Maple (2005) report that more hands-on management is associated with higher levels of ARBs because management efforts are only for animals with ARBs. Escape motivation, breeding season, feeding cues, and ability to forage may affect ARBs in river otters and should be investigated.

Publication Title Journal of Applied Animal Welfare Science
Volume 15
Issue 3
Pages 208-221
ISBN/ISSN 1088-8705
Publisher Taylor & Francis
DOI 10.1080/10888705.2012.658334
Language English
Author Address ZooAmerica-North American Wildlife Park, 201 Park Avenue, Hershey, PA 17033,
Cite this work

Researchers should cite this work as follows:

  1. Animal housing
  2. Animal nutrition
  3. Animal reproduction
  4. Animal rights
  5. Animals
  6. Animal welfare
  7. Breeding
  8. Carnivores
  9. Characteristics
  10. Feeding
  11. Fodder
  12. Foraging
  13. Gardens
  14. Incidence
  15. Mammals
  16. North America
  17. Otters.
  18. peer-reviewed
  19. surveys
  20. United States of America
  21. vertebrates
  22. weasels
  23. Zoo and captive wild animals
  24. Zoos
  1. peer-reviewed