She came to us in May of 1992 from a private otter farm whose owners have long since retired on the Gulf Coast of Louisiana. She was one of three puppies born to a wild-trapped mother. We named her Paddlefoot. She was destined to a life unlike most North American river otters; a specialized diet of ground sirloin, mink meal, cod liver oil, egg, shredded carrots, and tomato juice; three 1,500 gallon swim-tanks in a nice shaded play yard; the option of sleeping indoors during cold winter nights or in an air-conditioned playroom when the weather was hot and humid, and other luxuries unknown to any wild river otter.
Our mission for Paddlefoot was to make her a movie star who would appear in three Missouri Department of Conservation films. She fulfilled that role beautifully and went on to become a “stage” star in educational programs throughout the state. She became a little ambassador for the Department’s successful otter restoration program. Little did we know that this was the beginning of a long and interesting romance with otters in our home.
In 1993 we purchased a female playmate for Paddlefoot from the same location in Louisiana. The new otter’s name was Babyfoot. The pair, often referred to as “The Girls”, appeared in several television shows and continued educational roles at schools, youth camps, nature centers, and sports shows across the state. As time passed, it became evident that “The Girls” were becoming weary of the demands of their stage life. By the end of their five-year career, they had entertained and helped educate nearly a million people. Because of Paddlefoot’s aggressive behavior (a trait common in North American river otters), she and “Baby” were retired to the Kansas City Zoo in July, 1997. The tears flowed as we said goodbye to a very special duo who had come to mean so much to us, and whose appearances had touched so many lives.
The second generation of our baby otters came to us from the same farm in the Louisiana Bayou country. The two new puppies were named Little Paddles and Babyface. Their show and film careers lasted only two short years. Babyface became quite aggressive, even at ten months of age, and finally prompted us to place them in the Sunset Zoo, Manhattan, Kansas in July 1999.
Anticipating the early retirement of those two (because of Babyface’s aggression), we arranged for our third generation of baby otters from wild-trapped pregnant female otters in Louisiana. “The Boys,” Splash and Slide, were born in February 1999. At 2 years of age, they are on “full circuit” educational tours across the state.