Friday, January 21, 2005

Otters


River otter overruning Ohio:


The otter's story is familiar. Overtrapping drove the native species from Ohio by the early 1900s, but their reintroduction -- starting in 1986 and lasting seven years -- has been so successful that farmers are starting to complain. After all, a family of otters can eat half the fish in a privately stocked pond before the owner gets wind of their visits.


I don't have much to say beyond that. If you've been following closely, this makes sense. I'm really just looking for an excuse to talk about otters.


Otters are absolutely gorgeous animals. When I was in Ohio, we visited the Columbus Zoo, home of Jack Hanna. While we were there, we saw many beautiful things, including a family of Asian small-clawed otters. They came outside right when we got there, so we got a chance to see them encountering “new” habitat.


The otters spent a good five minutes running up and down and all around their habitat. The largest, probably the mom, led 5 smaller otters from the doors to a little nest area, up and down a dry waterway, through the empty pool, up to a cliff, and back down to the nest. All of a sudden, it all turned into a game of tag. The little otters chased the mom all over the areas they just explored, and she kept ahead of them. Eventually, they got her, and a little play fighting ensued. Ms. TfK was worried that they were attacking the mother, but I convinced her it was not that different from the way I get into boxing matches with my dad.


Eventually, four of the otters got bored and started scratching at the doors, while the last baby kept harassing the mom. She finally got some peace and quiet while the babies had their own independent explorations.


We also saw some zoo-kept American River Otters. They didn't do much, because it was cold and they had a nice burrow to rest in.


Some photos from the expedition are at my Fotki site.