Sacramento Zoo Grieves the Loss of North American River Otter 

The Sacramento Zoo is saddened by the loss of “Wilson,” the Zoo’s male North American River Otter, who was found dead in his exhibit by his zookeeper the morning of Monday, March 31. The day before zookeepers noticed his behavior to be slightly abnormal and were monitoring him.  The cause is unknown. A full necropsy will be performed by UC Davis to help understand his cause of death. Wilson was considered an older otter and was thought to be around 14-years-old. In the wild North American River Otters can live up to 10 years and up to 20 in captivity. 

“Wilson will be a tough loss for everyone,” said zookeeper Erik Bowker.  “He was an amazing otter to work with due to his incredible intelligence and love for foods of all kind.  He was a wonderful ambassador for his species and drew the attention of kids and adults alike.  His ability to interact with the public delighted many as he often stood nose-to-nose with children at the glass of his exhibit.  He will be greatly missed.”

Wilson was wild born in South Carolina but unfortunately was orphaned with his sibling. He was considered non-releasable by authorities and was given a home in an zoo accredited by the Association of Zoos and Aquariums. He came to the Sacramento Zoo in 2006 and shared an exhibit with Percy, the female North American River Otter. Wilson’s last extensive veterinary exam was April 16, 2013 including a full blood panel test and physical exam. The veterinarians did not find anything abnormal or cause for concern.  

North American River Otters are native to the freshwater rivers and streams in the United States. The largest concentration of otters in California is the Suisun Marsh, about 40 miles from Sacramento. They can also be found in the Yolo Basin, and the American River range, even stretching to the foothills.   

Male North American River Otter

Wilson the North American River Otter - By Chris Llewellyn

Sacramento Zoo – Wildly Inspiring!

Open since 1927, the Sacramento Zoo is home to more than 500 native, rare and endangered animals and is one of over 200 accredited institutions of the Association of Zoos and Aquariums.  Located near the corner of Land Park Drive and Sutterville Road in William Land Park, the Zoo is wholly managed by the non-profit Sacramento Zoological Society.  This Sacramento treasure inspires conservation awareness through education and recreation.  Open daily from 9:00 am to 4:00 pm, general admission is $11.25; children ages 2-11 are $7.25 and one and under are admitted free.  Parking is free throughout the park or ride Regional Transit bus #6. For information, call 916-808-5888 or visit

Open Print View 

The Sacramento Zoological Society  // 501(c)(3) nonprofit
3930 West Land Park Drive, Sacramento, CA 95822  //  916-808-5888
© 2016 Sacramento Zoo, All Rights Reserved

Sacramento Zoo's home page button