A declassified Cold War-era report compiled by the Central Intelligence Agency (CIA) doesn’t detail the use of “truth serum" on terror suspects or blueprints for an orgasm-inducing mind control weapon, (even though those are both very real things). Rather, the 15-page report, obviously written by typewriter, characterizes everything you never needed to know about the river otter.
The report was unveiled first by The Black Vault, a crowd-funded project specializing in the declassification of government records surrounding the decades-long MKUltra project through Freedom of Information Act requests. Between 1953 through the Cold War, the illegal human experimentation program infamously tested LSD on people without their consent and pushed the boundaries of research into pseudoscience and mind control. (Most recently, newly released documents outlined the testing of remote-controlled dogs, that is, real dogs implanted with electrical stimulation apparatus.)
Why did the government agency target mammals? Well, we’re not totally sure. But it’s not the first time the US government put together seemingly useless reports for who-knows-why.
First reported by Newsweek, the publication points out that the report reads like a child’s report on their favorite animal. We checked: it does.
The land otter, which encompasses a number of species, is not to be confused with its larger cousin, the sea otter (Enhydra lutris). Found “all over the world and in various forms,” these fish-loving fiends grow as “large as small seals.” The report mainly refers to the North American river otter, which was classified as Lutra canadensis when the report was written. However, today it is known as Lontra canadensis.
Okay, so to be fair river otters are pretty badass creatures. As the report reads, their territory typically ranges over 80 kilometers (50 miles) and they “can climb stairs, ladder[s], and other objects easily” with the “ability to slide down inclines with ease,” not to mention they can swim more than 16 kilometers (10 miles) per hour, diving up to 18 meters (60 feet) and being able to stay submerged for up to six minutes. Plus, they float on their backs.
“Lutra, the otter, is a compact, powerful, intelligent animal capable of negotiating land, water, and obstacles with great facility” and capable of surviving in “hostile environments such as under ice, in hot water, in raging seas, and even in urban environments,” reads the the aptly named “A Dossier on Lutra (The Otter).” Sure sounds like a criminal of wartime efforts.
Found within the report’s 15 pages are tenderly written pointers on how to bottle-feed baby otters with “the same formula used for human babies.” For those taking care of an adult otter, a subtle reminder is written to never take away its food – “particularly that which he has just caught, or suffer severe mauling.”
Then again, you could just cozy up with one of the 11-kilogram (25-pound) critters by tickling them around the ribs (“it’s a good way to distract stubborn ones").
Never does the report cite a specific intended use for the semi-aquatic mammal, but it may have been used to provide background information priming the CIA for projects that might involve captive otters, noting the “basic cost of animal ($75 to $250) as is maintenance.” They are also notably clever, having developed the abilities to “open zipper, climb ladder, chew through zinc sheet, turn on tap water, carry stones and marbles,” among other exciting and government-worthy traits.