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New Sea Otter Extraordinary Experience at Shedd Supports Care and Rescue Work

Participants come eye to eye with sea otters and learn about aquarium's work to protect the species

February 26, 2019

A young participant in a sea otter encounter looks through a window at an otter lying in its behind the scenes habitat, lying on its back and chewing on food less than a few inches away.

Shedd Aquarium is launching Chicago's first sea otter encounter program, giving guests an entirely new way to interact up-close with the popular marine mammals. The new Extraordinary Experience will bring participants behind-the-scenes to interact with the charismatic and naturally curious otters through an acrylic, clear partition and will include food preparation and feeding, touch opportunities and exciting play activities before snapping a digital photo to wrap things up. The encounter, launching March 3, supports Shedd's ongoing animal care, as well as the aquarium's conservation and Animal Response Team rescue efforts.

Quick details:

  • Length: 1 hour
  • Price: $109.95 for adults (12+)/$94.95 for children (6-11)/$64.95 for members. This price point includes the encounter, express entry, admission to the full aquarium and a ticket to the next available aquatic presentation.
  • Age Limitations: Must be 6+, children 6-11 must be accompanied by a paying adult and parents/guardians must sign waivers for participants who are 17 or younger.
  • Availability: Because the program is brand new, it is launching incrementally. It will initially only be hosted on weekends as of March 3 and will become more frequent starting in April. This gives the otters time to get used to new activities and interactions and allow our teams to adapt to a new schedule.
  • Of Note: Due to the proximity to the otter's food, Shedd recommends that guests with shellfish and seafood allergies not participate in this encounter.

“Guests have never been able to come face to face with the otters like this before at Shedd, and we cannot wait for them to see what we see everyday,”

Steve Aibel, senior director of marine mammals

Beyond capitalizing on otter fervor of guests, the experience is designed to bring attendees eye-to-eye with nature on an individual animal level. Engaging activities will help participants learn about sea otter biology and behavior, diet and more. Guests will also hear about threats facing the endangered animals in the wild and efforts from Shedd's Animal Response Team to safeguard wild otters in need.

"Guests have never been able to come face to face with the otters like this before at Shedd, and we cannot wait for them to see what we see everyday," said Steve Aibel, senior director of marine mammals at Shedd Aquarium. "While they may come in because of the gregarious and engaging nature of the animals, we hope that connecting our otters up close and seeing them look back at you will have a real impact on folks. We want guests to walk away with a greater love for aquatic animals and a real understanding on why they need our help."

Chances are that participants in each encounter will interact with an otter that was rescued from the wild, as three of the four otters at Shedd were found stranded as young pups. While handing over a treat or touching their fur, guests will hear from animal care staff about the animal's story, why pups end up abandoned and how often it happens. They'll also get to see how caring for these animals daily has led to Shedd answering the call for decades when otters are found and need recovery across the country.

Shedd is working on refreshing several existing Extraordinary Experiences this year as well. Guests can stay tuned throughout the year for updates to encounters and new opportunities to engage with nature.

PHOTOS: High resolution photos of Shedd's new sea otter encounter are available for download: https://personal.filesanywhere.com/fs/v.aspx?v=8d72688b60636f76ae6d
Photo Credit: ©Shedd Aquarium/Brenna Hernandez