Baraboo’s zoo will add otters to its menagerie ahead of schedule, as two have been purchased for arrival this spring.
They’ll occupy a new Ochsner Park Zoo exhibit that’s rapidly nearing completion, as concrete floors were poured this week.
On Monday, Parks Director Mike Hardy informed the Parks Commission that the zoo bought a pair of otters from a Montana zoo. Named Larry and Curly, they’re part of a trio that includes Moe, who’s headed to Milwaukee. Hardy said the otters are about 1 year old and cost $500 each.
This acquisition makes completing the exhibit promptly a priority. The city and the Friends of the Baraboo Zoo booster group had planned to add otters in the fall.
“We’re kind of fast-tracking that,” Hardy said.
The otters’ indoor home is nearly complete. Fences are set to be installed soon, leaving the exhibit’s pools as the last components to be added. “We’re hoping we’ll have the pools done, or at least started” by spring, Hardy said, “and finished by fall.”
Friends of the Baraboo Zoo group has raised more than $360,000 for the exhibit in the past decade. Another $60,000 is needed to finish the job.
The nonprofit organization is planning several events this year to raise money and bring visitors to the free zoo. These include a breakfast, tours featuring wine and beer and a fall gala. President Amber Giddings said an 11-year-old recently collected donations at his birthday party, raising nearly $600.
The otters’ cost came in lower than expected, as they can go for thousands of dollars. The challenge now is figuring out how to transport them from Montana.
“I’ve got spring break coming up,” Commissioner Mary Mjelde joked.
The otter exhibit’s momentum would’ve been difficult to anticipate a year ago, when the lone bid to build it came in at nearly $1 million, well beyond the Friends’ means. The group approached Friede and Associates of Reedsburg to develop an affordable plan.
Officials from Friede, the Friends and the city broke ground at the site in September. The Friends are building the exhibit, and will donate it to the city.