Whisker Wednesday Presents…

5 Otter Questions With…

Amanda from Point Defiance Zoo & Aquarium (PDZA)!

What path did you take to get your job?

I started as an marine mammal intern in the Rocky Shores area of PDZA when I was 18 years old and a freshman in college. After I completed that internship, I continued to volunteer in the area while I was in school. The next summer, I completed another marine mammal internship at the Seattle Aquarium, and continued to volunteer at PDZA. The next summer, I was offered paid hours at both facilities and worked 7 days a week. When I went back to school, I continued working at Seattle Aquarium. Once I completed my bachelor’s degree (in Psychology), I continued to work at both Seattle Aquarium and PDZA until a full time staff biologist position opened up in 2006. I applied and got the job and have been here ever since!

What is your average day like?

When it comes to the animal care field, there really is no such thing as an “average day.” But, as a general explanation…the morning is filled with first feeds and looking over all of the animals and exhibits. We work with our vet staff on a regular basis to do any necessary procedures with our critters (blood draws, physicals, eye exams, etc). So, we feed the animals, clean the exhibits and do any husbandry care that is necessary. When we are done with the first round of feeds, we start again. Sea otters have to eat a lot throughout the day, so we feed them five times a day here. In addition, we care for 9 other species of animals, so we are feeding constantly through the day. There is a lot of paperwork involved in our job as well. We have to fill out feeding records, training records, behavioral records, as well as order all of the seafood for the zoo and a variety of other paperwork.

Favorite species of otter?

I am most familiar with sea otters, and some of my favorite animals I have ever worked with have been older northern sea otters.

Favorite otter story that you would like to share?

One of my favorite memories occurred when we gave the otters some live kelp. We didn’t realize that inside the kelp, was a small live squid. We saw it swimming around the exhibit and were wondering if the sea otters would notice it. Finally, one of our sea otters, Nellie, noticed. You would have thought that, as a sea otter, she would have been very interested in eating that squid. Instead, she was scared to death of it and swam backwards as soon as she realized it was moving. She watched that squid for a good half an hour in confusion. It was very entertaining.

When talking otters, what message do you most want people to take with them?

We like to emphasize the idea of purchasing sustainable seafood to our visitors. All marine animals are affected by overfishing and poor harvesting. Monterey Bay Aquarium has a Seafood Watch list which shows people seafood that is good to purchase, not as good to purchase, and items that we should really stay away from in order to keep our oceans as healthy as possible. If everyone refers to this list before consuming seafood, it will help sustain seafood populations, which helps the oceans as a whole as well as helping seafood eating animals have access to the food they need to survive.

Thank you so much, Amanda!

I’m just so excited to be able to put this into print – so excited! I got the idea for 5 Otter Questions a few days after starting this blog. So, I got myself into gear and came up with a group of questions. I wanted my questions to have variation because not every zoo has the same species of otters. So, I started sending them out and Amanda was the first to respond. I’m hoping that I receive enough responses, in an ongoing manner, that I can post 5 Otter Questions once a month.

And with that, here’s Nellie to close out this post ~

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