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For Rose, a second chance at love

The first time around didn't go so well. (He ended up dead.) But if Rose can tone down her approach, she may get to be a mommy again.

By CINDY RUPERT
© St. Petersburg Times
published March 1, 2002


photo
[Times photos: Stefanie Boyar]
Rose, a female otter at the Florida Aquarium, is getting a new mate in about two weeks. Trainers hope Rose and the unnamed male otter, on loan from the Nashville Zoo, will hit it off and produce offspring.
CHANNEL DISTRICT -- Single brown female, loves water sports, seeks sleek, amphibious member of the weasel family for fun and fatherhood.

Rose the River Otter was on the verge of having to resort to the singles ads.

But the Florida Aquarium has found her a mate.

That's no small feat. A good otter is hard to find these days, especially for a female with Rose's scarlet past.

"It's hard to take them from the wild," says Paula Blum, the aquarium's animal programs coordinator. "They're very aggressive."

In captivity, things get worse.

The last otter that tried to mate with Rose wound up with a broken arm and died after surgery.

Nationally, only three breeding females exist in in captivity, and Rose is one of them.

Whatever else she may be, that makes her very, very desirable, never mind that she has three pups from a prior relationship. She was a good otter mom. "We didn't have to do any bottle feeding," Blum says. Her grown children, Tubman, R.G. Biv and Streamer, found homes at zoos in Michigan, Missouri and North Carolina.

Rose was ready to try again.

Enter the doomed Bachelor No. 2, Sinjin, who never emerged from the anesthesia.

The legacy of that wild encounter may live on.

Rose, if pregnant, could have given birth two months after mating. It's been longer than two months.

Aquarium trainer Paula Blum said Rose has a reputation for being aggressive.
But there's no reliable rabbit test for otters, and the mothers have an odd ability to delay (for months) the growth of their unborn pups.

It's sort of like being "a little pregnant."

Meanwhile, Rose's new mate -- Bachelor No. 3 -- is due to arrive from the Nashville Zoo in two weeks.

He will first stop at Lowry Park Zoo for a 30-day quarantine.

He'll get a name.

After baptism comes matrimony.

No one knows just how No. 3 will react to Rose, or vice-versa.

"He won't know if she's pregnant, but he won't get the cues to mate if she is," Blum says.

That alone could cause him to reject her.

If they click, she's only 7 and he's only 10.

Otters can live happily into their 20s.

There's plenty of time for a new start.

- Times correspondent Cindy Rupert spotted a river otter looking decidedly frisky in Hillsborough Bay last week near the Bayshore Boulevard sidewalk at Howard Avenue. Bachelor No. 4?

Otter adoption

Want to help support Rose? For $35, adoptive parents get a photograph, an adoption certificate, a fact sheet and a plush otter toy. Call the Florida Aquarium at 273-4000.

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