December 4, 2013 —
NARROWSBURG, NY — This fall we at The River Reporter have enjoyed the playful antics of a group of otters that frequent Little Lake Erie in Narrowsburg adjacent to our office. We’re not sure where they’ve gone now that there’s a skin of ice on the pond’s surface, but we did get some very good photos and a video (www.youtube.com/watch?v=oNuJtwYwr7s ) of them just a few weeks ago.
The North American river otter was once found throughout Pennsylvania and New York State, but over-trapping (for their furs) in the 18th and 19th centuries, plus increased water pollution, nearly wiped them out. Still, pockets of otters remained, including in parts of the Adirondacks in New York and the Poconos in Pennsylvania. In addition, both states established programs to reintroduce otters to areas where their populations were devastated.
Adult otters weigh from about 12 to 20 pounds. They can swim seven miles an hour, and on land they can run as fast as 18 miles an hour. They can travel underwater for a quarter of a mile and hold their breath for several minutes. They have webbed hind feet. Their diet consists mainly of fish, but they also eat frogs and toads, tadpoles and salamanders, snails and turtles. (There are a lot of turtles in Little Lake Erie.)
In recent decades, water quality improved and trapping was prohibited, and for a number of years wildlife conservationists have been watching them make a comeback.
We don’t know if or when our friendly otters will appear again, but we surely welcome them.