OKC Zoo Saddened to Announce Passing of Geriatric North American River Otter

The Oklahoma City Zoo is saddened to announce the passing of its female North American river otter, Pip, 19. On Friday, February 18, Pip, was examined by the Zoo’s veterinary team at the Joan Kirkpatrick Animal Hospital after caretakers noticed changes in her behavior including decreased mobility and appetite. Caretakers had been closely monitoring Pip due to her advanced age and earlier diagnosis of arthritis. This examination led caretakers to the difficult decision to humanely euthanize Pip.  

At 19 years old, Pip was considered geriatric. She was receiving pain medication and regular cold laser therapy treatments to provide her comfort for arthritis. Pip participated voluntarily in her treatment, as a result of the strong and trusting relationship she shared with her caretakers. According to the Association of Zoos and Aquariums (AZA), the average life expectancy for both male and female river otters in human care is around 12 years. The fact that Pip lived well beyond the median life expectancy is a testament to the incredible care she received from the Zoo’s veterinary and animal care teams.

Pip arrived at the Zoo’s Oklahoma Trail habitat in January 2004 from Sedgwick County Zoo and was a beloved species of the Big Rivers building. Throughout the years, Pip greeted millions of Zoo guests who enjoyed watching her swim and seeing her playfulness in action as she glided and rolled through the water. Pip’s caretakers remember her as inquisitive and always willing to participate in training sessions. Caretakers also shared that Pip eagerly engaged with enrichment items such as feeder and boomer toys, especially if they contained fish!

North American river otters are listed by the International Union for Conservation of Nature as a species of least concern and their species population is stable. North American river otters are carnivores, eating fish, amphibians, crustaceans and even small mammals, and often hunt for food in groups.

The OKC Zoo remains home to male North American river otter, Rocky, 6, who resides at the otter habitat in the Big Rivers building at Oklahoma Trails, and is working with the AZA to find him a companion otter.

Photo of Pip by Andrea Johnson

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