Maymont Suffers Loss of Male Otter, Neptune

Neptune at Maymont


Release Date: November 2, 2016

It is with great sadness that Maymont announces the death of Neptune, the male North American river otter, who passed away on Friday, October 28, at the age of 19. Necropsy results show that he died of natural causes. In his typical manner, he was swimming, playing with enrichments, and behaving normally for an otter of advanced age on the day before his death.

The loss of Neptune follows that of Pandora, the 17-year-old female otter, who died of kidney failure related to old age in September. Both otters lived nearly twice as long as the average eight- to nine-year lifespan of their counterparts in the wild, due in large part to their constant attention and medical care from animal keepers at Maymont and professional veterinarians.

Neptune came to Maymont as a hand-raised two-year-old otter from Silver Springs Attractions in Silver Springs, Florida, arriving just in time for the November 1999 opening of the Robins Nature & Visitor Center. Neptune and Pandora immediately bonded, and together, they became two of the most popular, well-loved animals in Richmond, generating interest in and passion for Virginia’s native otter species.

“Neptune was adored by our staff and guests,” said Henry “Buz” Bireline, Maymont Director of Habitats and the Nature Center. “He was a relaxed, independent animal who loved enrichment, food treats, and training exercises. He was even an ‘artist in residence,’ trained by our animal keepers to paint abstract art on canvas, which kept him both mentally and physically stimulated.”

Maymont has begun the search for new North American river otters, working with the Virginia Department of Game & Inland Fisheries, wildlife rescue organizations, zoos, aquariums and other similar institutions to find animals that need a home. The Nature Center continues to offer close encounters with alligators, seahorses, snakes, turtles, fish and other creatures of the James River, and guests can watch special training and enrichment activities in the galleries each week.

Otters are semi-aquatic members of the family Mustelidae, cousins to weasels, badgers, ferrets and mink. They can be found on every continent except Antarctica and Australia. There are 13 species of otters; the ones native to this area, including Pandora and Neptune, are river otters (Lontra canadensis). In Virginia, their habitat includes the shores of the Chesapeake Bay and the rivers, lakes, and marshes along the Bay watershed. They are identified by their elongated body, short legs and long tail. They can swim at speeds up to six miles an hour, dive to depths of 60 feet, and stay submerged for more than four minutes.