OTTERS AND US

A few decades ago all the gillies in the UK carried a shotgun on their rounds of the streams and rivers because they hated the otters and shot every one they could. Otters ate fish and that was all the reason they needed. As with farmers, fish and game managers followed the dogma that there should be only one crop, the one that they valued, and only the humans should be allowed to harvest that crop. No trout or salmon for otters. That attitude has moderated.

 

In North America otters were seen and valued only as “fur”. Signs of otters brought out the leg-hold traps with a wish for cash. Decline in the long-fur markets has moderated that mercenary evaluation of otters.

 

More recently otters, along with other wild species, have come to be valued for their own sake without the primitive bias against predators and without regard for the dictates of the consumer market place. In a few cases people have made pets of otters. Love of water and otters’ playful nature made for messy bathtubs and only devoted masters or mistresses kept them as pets. Slightly more practical folks built otter houses outdoors and let the otters play in nature. In one such venture, an apparently attractive otter house was ignored and the otter family built their nest in the crawl space under the guest bedroom. There was a distinctive atmosphere.

 

Beyond being valued for their natural beauty as masters of their environment, otters are now also regarded as indicators of the integrity of that environment. Where otters are seen frequently, not only the watery environment but also the landscape surrounding the lake or the river valley also is healthy. The entire landscape including the waterscape is likely to have high biodiversity and relatively complete ecosystem integrity.

 

Guenter 3 otters 150 dpi file 1.5M  IMG_0638_ 2

Guenter otter & frog 300dpi file 1.5M IMG_0645_

 

 

 

 

 

 

The otters pictured here in photographs by Guenter Nitsche are a family group hunting from the ice edge in January on the Salmon River just downstream of the river’s head at Kennebec Lake. One otter has captured a dormant green frog from its winter hideout in the sediments at the bottom of the river. The otters also catch some fish and probably also some green frog tadpoles that pass their first winter swimming sluggishly under the ice.

 

Surely otters have rights to some of the produce of the ecological system of which they are an integral part.

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