Mr. Frank Logiudice and Dr. Eric Hoffman


Zoos enable the ability to study how captive conditions impact the behaviors of animals. In this study, I observed two North American river otters housed at the Central Florida Zoo to evaluate behavioral changes after the male had been removed from the female for a month-long medical examination. The aim of this study was to 1) determine if mating behaviors were still occurring between the two river otters following the male’s removal and 2) to assess the welfare of the male and female river otters in captivity by observing their interactions and individual behaviors. Observed behaviors were compared to documented behaviors of wild river otters to determine if captive conditions induced these behaviors. It was found that the male still expressed mating behaviors towards the female, but she was not receptive to his mating attempts after his reintroduction. Furthermore, the male spent more time sleeping (n = 3,472 minutes) than the female (n = 1,628 minutes) which could be an indicator of poor health. Contrary to the male, the female vocalized daily (average 3 times per day) and swam stereotypical swimming patterns which were likely displacement behaviors. These findings are useful for understanding the behaviors of captive animals and provide zookeepers information on how to better care for zoo animals.

About the Author

Julia Rifenberg is an undergraduate honors student at the University of Central Florida. Julia will be graduating from UCF in May 2021 with a Bachelor's degree in Biology and a minor in Psychology. Julia completed this observational research study as a student in an animal behavior course. Since this study, Julia has begun an Honors Undergraduate Thesis in Psychology. Julia's passions include animal behavior and psychology, and she plans to eventually pursue graduate school for a degree in Psychology.



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