February 10, 2009

Wild otter crashes zoo exhibit

A curator at Florida's Jacksonville Zoo and Gardens said a wild North American river otter somehow found its way into the zoo's otter exhibit.

Craig Miller, curator of mammals at the zoo, said only one otter was left in the exhibit when the attraction closed Sunday night but keepers arrived Monday morning to find the otter had been joined by a wild cousin from outside, the (Jacksonville) Florida Times-Union reported Tuesday.

Miller said the incident was a first for the zoo.

We get birds or squirrels coming in, of course, he said. And we may find possum remains in the lion yard. But never this.

He said the wild otter was freed Monday afternoon at the Trout River. Florida regulations bar zoos from keeping wild animals unless they are injured or declared a nuisance animal.

He's a first-time offender, Miller said. So we let him go.

The curator said officials will likely tighten the fence surrounding the exhibit to keep wild animals out of the otter area.