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Happy birthday to the most otterly adorable foursome!

Posted by Elizabeth Bacher, Communications

Flashback to last year: Mama Valkyrie is surrounded by her four pups, Tucker, Nooksack, Piper and Tahu. Photo: Jeremy Dwyer-Lindgren/Woodland Park Zoo
We’re coming up on a milestone for our four youngest North American River otters. Almost one year ago, on March 16th 2019, our resident female, Valkyrie, gave birth to her very first litter of pups—two males and two females. Tucker, Nooksack, Piper and Tahu are nearly full grown now and almost ready for their next adventure.

Happy birthday, baby! Throwback to one year ago when the N. American River otter pups had their first wellness exam. Photo: Jeremy Dwyer-Lindgren/Woodland Park Zoo 
In nature, young North American river otters might stay with their mother for up to a year while learning to swim, dive and hunt for fish. So it’s no surprise that by 10 months, boys Tucker and Nooksack were ready to separate from mom. Soon, these youngsters will be moving on to other accredited conservation institutions where they can be independent and maybe even start their own families. We’ll be sure to fill you in on the details as they develop, but for now we have all the otters separated by sex into two groups. Tucker and Nooksack have been living with dad, Ziggy, for the last couple months—while females Piper and Tahu are staying with Valkyrie. Both groups rotate between the public side of their home in Northern Trail, and some behind the scenes spaces.

Otterly delightful! The group got along swimmingly, as seen here last August. Photo: Dennis Dow/Woodland Park Zoo
Telling them apart takes a little work these days, but there are definite differences between individuals. Nooksack is the biggest of the youngsters and he seems to take after his dad—apparently adopting some of Ziggy’s behaviors just by watching. He and his brother Tucker continue to be pretty bonded and spend time together. The brothers look a lot alike, but Nooksack is darker and Tucker has some distinct black “cheetah like” lines under his eyes.

A splish-splash flashback from last year! Curious otter pups explored in and out of the water. Photo: Jeremy Dwyer-Lindgren/Woodland Park Zoo
As for the girls, Piper is the largest female and is darker than her sister. She’s a little more outgoing, too. Tahu is our shy girl and her keepers tell us she seems to like rubbing her face on her fish before taking it and eating it—perfectly acceptable mealtime manners for an otter!

A swirl of energy while the pups learnt to fish. Photo by Dennis Dow/Woodland Park Zoo.
We’ll keep you updated when we know where each of our foursome is heading next, but for now we hope you’ll join us in wishing them a happy birthday!

It seems like just yesterday that the pups were taking their first dip into the stream. Photo by Jeremy Dwyer-Lindgren/Woodland Park Zoo.

Awwww... the river otter pups were all snuggles at a few weeks old. Photo by Jeremy Dwyer-Lindgren/Woodland Park Zoo.
Hello! Photo by Dennis Dow/Woodland Park Zoo.

River otters depend on clean and healthy waterways to thrive in the Pacific Northwest. You can play a big part in keeping our water clean for otters and all the critters in our community by doing these three things:

  • Reduce or eliminate lawn and garden chemicals. This keeps plants healthy naturally as well as protecting habitat, including water in our local streams, rivers and lakes. Visit for tips on becoming pesticide free.
  • Go plastic free for 3 months! Single-use plastic bottles are highly resource intensive to produce, transport and refrigerate. Their disposal has a direct impact on wildlife and habitats, threatening the well-being of animals and disrupting ecosystems. (If you make it three months, you can do it forever, right?)
  • Organize or join a beach clean up on the Puget Sound or your local wetlands, you'd be surprised how many pieces of trash you'll find in our beautiful waterways. Just make sure you aren't disturbing wildlife while you work. For resources, check out: for ideas!