Arkansas Animals at the Zoo
The Little Rock Zoo began in 1926, with just two animals – an abandoned timber wolf and a circus trained brown bear. Today the Zoo has 600 animals representing 170 species – some of them on the endangered list. The Zoo has become the state’s greatest natural education and conservation resource.
The Crossland Zoo was established in 1953. It is one of two zoos in the state. The Zoo has over 50 different mammal, reptile and avian species.
Special educational programs are presented throughout the year and traveling educational programs are available upon request.
The word "zoo" is short for zoological park or garden. Zoology is the study of animals. Modern zoos conduct studies on the conservation of animal species both within their boundaries and around the world. Zoos protect many endangered species, and breeding programs work to enlarge their shrinking populations.
Today zoos house their animals in settings that resemble the natural environments as much as possible. Animals live in groups similar to their normal social gatherings in the wild. This keeps them comfortable so they are able to reproduce. At least ninety percent of the mammals in America’s zoos today were bred and born in zoos; very few were taken from the wild.
Many classes plan trips to the zoo to see animals. Classes can study the animals in books, see the pictures, read stories, or write original stories; but to really bring the facts to life a visit to the zoo with cameras and video-recorders is a great way to learn about animals.
We found these Arkansas "critters" at the zoo. Take a quick look.
North American Raccoon
The raccon can be found throughout most of North and Central America and is most often found in hardwood forests.
Raccoons range in size from 15-44 pounds with the northern raccoons being larger than the southern.
They gray fox is native to most of North and Central America. Its habitat includes any area that has broadleaf woodlands and bushy vegetation.
We took a vote. We decided that this pair of happy, splashing, swimming, running, sliding otters was our favorite to stand and watch. All throughout the day they never stopped moving or playing with each other. This was absolutely hilarious. Some people say that the playing is part on the close social structure of the otter.
Zoo diet: fish three times a week or horsemeat with vegetables and vitamin E twice a week.
There are two otters that currently reside at the Little Rock Zoo.
To learn more about the North American river otter and other Zoo residents, be sure to visit the Zoo soon!
We decided we wanted to learn more about the otters that lived at "Otter Crossing", Little Rock Arkansas Zoo, and the relatives that are probably living free in other parts of Arkansas.
The otter has a long, slender, sleek body, weighing approximately 20 to 30 pounds and about two and a half feet long. His head is small and round, with small eyes and ears and prominent whitish whiskers. The legs are short but powerful and all four feet are webbed. The tail is long, thick and slightly tapered. The fur is dark brown to black and is short and dense. The stomach, cheeks and the underside, throat, are gray-white to golden. Females are a third smaller than males.
The otter eats fish, crayfish, frogs, turtles and aquatic invertebrates, plus an occasional bird, rodent or rabbit. Because otters prey most easily on fish that are slow and easy to catch, much of the diet consists of "rough" fish like carp, suckers and catfish. Otters consume their catch immediately. They have several hunting sessions a day, swimming and feeding for about an hour or more before resting on the bank.
The otter is usually found alone or in pairs, but they socialize in larger groups. They are very playful and seem to enjoy every minute of the day. These play activities actually serve a purpose. Some are used to strengthen social bonds, to practice hunting techniques, and to scent mark. River otters get their boundless energy from their very high metabolism, which also requires them to eat a great deal during the day.
Males and females come together to breed in March-April. The 1-5 young are born blind and full-furred in a nest of sticks 10-12 months later, following delayed implantation of the fertilized egg in the uterus. The female gives birth in a den or bank burrow near the water, usually an abandoned muskrat den.
The male is driven away from the den shortly after the birth of the young but is later allowed back to help care for them. The are helpless for about 2 months. They are weaned after 3-4 months and leave the parents after a year. Sexual maturity is reached at 2-3 years of age.
Otters communicate through a wide range of activities. They vocalize with whistles, growls chuckles, and screams. They also scent mark by urinating on vegetation within their home range. They have very large home ranges and they are constantly on the move within this range. Despite these large ranges, otters are only slightly territorial and generally practice mutual avoidance.
ARKANSAS DISTRIBUTION AND ABUNDANCE
The otter occurs statewide with increasing populations (Sealander and Heidt 1990).
The primary predator is man. River otters have been hunted for many year for their attractive and durable fur. Heavy trapping combined with the demise of the beaver greatly reduced otter populations in Arkansas, and they were scarce or rare in many streams in the state around the turn of the century. With the imposition of a legal trapping season, numbers slowly increased but fluctuated over the years with changes in trapping pressure as prices paid for pelts increased or decreased. Otters have always been more numerous in rivers and other bodies of water in the Gulf Coastal Plain, but clearing of bottomland forests in the Delta and other parts of the Coastal Plain for the cultivation of row crops has had a detrimental effect on the otter population. In recent years, however, there appears to have been an increase in the otter population which has paralleled the increases in muskrat, beaver, and nutria populations. (Sealander and Heidt 1990)
Arkansas Game and Fish Commission: