If the Ste-Anne-De-Bellevue Ecomuseum had a favourite TV show, it would be Welcome Back, Otter.

After two years, the semiaquatic mammals have returned in a new $1.4 million, 6,000 square foot enclosure which opened this past week.

The new outdoor habitat is seven times larger than the old one.

Three new residents replace the old pair of otters, who died of old age. The Ecomuseum decided to turn the sad loss into an opportunity to do something grand.

“The fact that we no longer had otters allowed us to say ‘Well, we’ll take the opportunity to build this new enclosure,’” said Ecomuseum Operations Director Caroline Bourque. “They are our emblem, they’re a very social animal, very gregarious. They love to play, they love to frolic in the water and the children get a great deal of fun just watching them play.”

Their new digs are quite luxurious, meant to keep them comfortable in a Canadian winter.

“The hiding spot inside the habitat, they’re heated hiding spots,” said curator Patricia Presseau. “So, it’s really good for them, actually.”

All three are river otters, a species native to Quebec. These ones were rescued from a fur farm in Louisiana. 

They have to ability to hold their breath for seven minutes at a time, and can close their noses and ears when they swim. 

They are each around two-years-old. River otters can live for about 14 years. 

Animals at the Ecomuseum are native to Quebec and the St. Lawrence Valley. The critters can’t be released into the wild due to injury or because they’ve become accustomed to humans. 

The next area the Ecomuseum plans to renovate is the habitat for birds of prey. 

Though the otters are new to Ste-Anne-De-Bellevue, there’s plenty of room for some new friends in their new home.