Environmental enrichment has been used to identify and change a stimulus in a captive environment to increase the animal's welfare by bring out species-appropriate behaviors and combating stereotypic behaviors. One captive North American river otter (Lontra canadensis) was presented four enrichment initiatives (live fish, frozen fish, swim tube, PVC scent tubes) in a random order and placement throughout the exhibit. Baseline data showed that the otter preferred to spend mornings in the lower level of the exhibit and the afternoons in the upper level. Food initiatives (i.e. live fish, and a lesser degree frozen fish) were most effective in deterring a stereotyped swimming pattern, but effects were confined to the times in which the initiatives were present, and more effective when applied in the afternoon than the morning. This suggested that the stereotyped behavior was functional, occurring out of a lack of ability to forage. Variability existed in behavioral diversity between initiatives, and all initiatives increase exhibit utilization through exploratory behaviors and the expression of more naturalist behaviors. Results should be used by animal care staff to make corresponding changes to husbandry practices to improve the otter's welfare.

Library of Congress Subject Headings

North American river otter--Environmental enrichment; North American river otter--Behavior; Captive wild animals--Behavior

Publication Date


Document Type


Student Type


Degree Name

Environmental Science (MS)

Department, Program, or Center

Thomas H. Gosnell School of Life Sciences (COS)


Korfmacher, Karl

Advisor/Committee Member

Marchetti, Carol


Note: imported from RIT’s Digital Media Library running on DSpace to RIT Scholar Works in December 2013.

Physical copy available from RIT's Wallace Library at QL737.C25 N45 2009


RIT – Main Campus

Plan Codes