Menominee Park Zoo to unveil new otter exhibit - June 10 2013

OSHKOSH, WI - They're sleek, dark brown and about the size of a Dachshund. Their natural habitat is along the shores of Wisconsin's rivers, streams, marshes and lakes. They're river otters, and you'd be fortunate to see one in the wild as they're clever creatures of secrecy.

River otters, which are known to be playful by wrestling, chasing and snuggling with each other above ground and under water, are now part of the Menominee Park Zoo, located at Oshkosh's Menominee Park on the shores of Lake Winnebago.

Two female otters took up residency in a new zoo exhibit last month. The zoo will hold a grand opening and ribbon cutting for the exhibit at 6 p.m. Monday, June 10, 2013. The event will include a presentation and behind the scenes tours.

"These otters are not only cute, fun animals. They are teaching tools that are symbols of water and provide gateway for people of all ages to understand the importance of animals and nature," says Memuna Kahn, president of the Oshkosh Zoological Society. "This otter exhibit is like doing something that's beautiful, and it's a glimmer of hope."

The two female otters were named in a contest during May. Out of more than 320 names that were suggested by the public, Minee and Winnie were chosen. The name Minee is taken from the zoo's name, Menominee Park Zoo. And Winnie is taken from the name Lake Winnebago, the shores on which the park sits. Tom Allen, of Oshkosh, who suggested the names, will be presented with a gift package that includes passes to water parks, golf and other attractions during Monday's event.

Construction on the exhibit began in October. The large outdoor cement enclosure features two pools connected by a shoot for the otters to frolic and play in. Zoo visitors can watch the otters swim and play through a large underwater viewing area. Multiple glass viewing areas allow visitors to see the otters above ground in a natural habitat environment, which eventually will include sand, rocks, trees and vegetation.

"After many years of designing, planning and fundraising for this exhibit, we are really excited to have it open and be able to offer another great experience for zoo visitors," says Ray Maurer, parks director for the City of Oshkosh.

The otter exhibit is the newest feature at the eight-acre facility focused on providing programming and exhibits that shine a light on Wisconsin's natural resources and animal habitats. Other exhibits feature monkeys, goats, wolves, elk and farm animals.

The city owned facility is open seasonally, from May to September, drawing 79,000 visitors in 2012. Admission is free, courtesy of annual gifts from the Tom and Penny Harenburg Zoo Fund of the Oshkosh Area Community Foundation.

The Community Foundation in partnership with the City of Oshkosh and Oshkosh Zoological Society launched a fundraising campaign for the otter exhibit in 2011 and raised the $273,000 needed for construction. No tax payer dollars were used for the exhibit. The Community Foundation will formally donate the exhibit to the city this summer.

"Oshkosh is lucky to have a progressive-minded city government and philanthropic individuals who care about their community," says Bill Wyman, interim president of the Community Foundation. "The Oshkosh Area Community Foundation is honored to work with our local leaders to match our donors' interests with projects that improve the quality of life in Oshkosh. This is another great example of a public-private collaboration. A big thank you goes to the generosity of the many donors who supported this project."

The otter exhibit was supported by significant contributions from the Jim Ryan Menominee Zoo Fund and the Tom and Penny Harenburg Zoo Fund, as well as many other individual donors.

Support for the zoo is an ongoing need. Contributions can be made to the Community Foundation by phone at 920-426-3993 or by mailing checks to:
Oshkosh Area Community Foundation
230 Ohio Street Suite 100
Oshkosh, WI 54902-5894

Online donations to support the zoo can be made to the Tom and Penny Harenburg Zoo Fund and the Otter Exhibit Fund at www.OshkoshAreaCF.org.

The Oshkosh Area Community Foundation is a nonprofit charitable organization created by and for the people of Winnebago County, Waushara County, Green Lake County and Ripon. Through charitable giving, the Community Foundation strives to make our communities thrive. For more information, please call 920-426-3993.


Fact Sheet

About River Otters
  • Long, sleek dark brown body about 3 feet to 4 feet long, with a 12 inch to 18 inch tail
  • Member of the weasel family, similar to a mink or muskrat
  • Small facial features with a broad nose and 2 to 4 inch long whiskers
  • Natural habitat along the shores of Wisconsin's streams, rivers,
    marshes, lakes and ponds
  • In the wild, otters eat fish such as suckers, minnows, bass, and other animals such as crayfish, frogs, birds and vegetation
  • Known as playful creatures that like to wrestle and chase each other and their prey
  • Use dens to raise their young (typically 2 to 4 pups) which are born in April or May after one year of gestation
  • Otters are born about 4.5 inches long, furry and with their eyes closed
  • Taught to swim after being weaned at 8 to 10 weeks old
  • Strike out on their own at about 1 year old

  • Menominee Park Otter Exhibit
  • Outdoor cement enclosure with two pools containing about 8,000 gallons of water
  • Natural above water habitat includes sand, rocks, trees and vegetation
  • Large underwater viewing area
  • Multiple glass viewing areas
  • Attached husbandry building with small indoor pool and individual housing areas
  • Final exhibit cost $273,000
  • Funded by private donations
  • Two female otters, Minee, 3, and Winnie, 7
  • Daily diet: 5 ½ ounces of ground beef twice a day, ¼ cup of dry cat food mixed into ground beef,
    13 ounces of lake smelt

    Menominee Park Zoo
  • 8 acre facility located in Oshkosh's Menominee Park on the shores of Lake Winnebago
  • Started in 1945 by the City of Oshkosh Parks Department
  • Open seasonally May to September; hours are 9 a.m. to 7:30 p.m.
  • 30 to 50 animals, which are leased, allowing for a variety each year
  • Exhibits include monkeys, goats, wolves, elk, farm animals
  • Most animals are housed off-site during winter
  • 79,000 visitors in 2012; 3,500 children on educational field trips
  • Free admission
  • Special events include Egg-citing Day at the Zoo (Easter egg hunt), Snooze at the Zoo, Zooloween Boo (Halloween), Sawdust Days
  • Lakefly Café offers concessions and zoo souvenirs


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