Like Fiona the Hippo at the Cincinnati Zoo or Shamu at Sea World, or even your loyal pet, it's always nice to give animals an appropriate and memorable name. 

So it goes with the two river otters at Dubuque's National Mississippi River Museum & Aquarium. The otters are fast friends, have strong ties to the Mississippi River, and were accordingly named Tom Sawyer and Becky Thatcher. The reference is to the two well-known characters from Mark Twain's The Adventures of Tom Sawyer and Huckleberry Finn.

Susan and Ed Ritts, supporters of the Dubuque County Historical Society, which owns and operates the River Museum, were granted the honor of naming the otters. "We named the otters for characters from Mark Twain's novels," the couple stated. "River otters are as iconic to the Mississippi as Twain's works, and we were excited by the opportunity to draw that connection through their names."

"These particular names will help us connect the natural aspects of the Mississippi River with its cultural significance, hopefully inspiring people to preserve and protect our natural and cultural treasures," said Andy Allison, VP of Education and Living Collections.

Undoubtedly, Mark Twain would be honored and thrilled to know characters from his 1876 novel about a boy growing up along the Mississippi River would live on with the naming of two formerly orphaned river otters. 

Tom Sawyer and Becky Thatcher are on a daily exhibit in the River Museum's Flooded Forest habitat in the Mississippi River Discovery Center.

The National Mississippi River Museum & Aquarium is located at 350 E. 3rd St. Dubuque, Iowa 52001. For more information and hours of operation, visit

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