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Posts Tagged ‘West Virginia otters’

West Virginia has a growing river otter population.

According to the West Virginia DNR, the river that runs through my home county now has a healthy population of the aquatic mustelids living on it.

When I was a child, one would hear stories about otters– and these would be followed by scoffs that such animals would eat all the game fish. I remember stories about an old farmer shooting an otter out of his farm ponds and then driving it 40 miles to throw it off a bridge into a different river system.  Otters were protected, and some of these animals had tracking devices on them.  There was a kind of macabre hope that the otter thrown from the bridge would confound those smarty pants DNR experts. I don’t think it did.  The bullet hole kind of gave it away.

Well, there still are game fish, and the Little Kanawha remains one of the wildest rivers that runs through the Allegheny Plateau to the Ohio.  It runs through what are mostly forests and farm fields.  The Industrial Revolution didn’t really come here. Its effects are minimal.

And even at that, the fish are all full of mercury, and the state has strong suggestions on how many fish one should eat.

But the otters are here.

They were killed off in the days of the early fur trade.

Otters are also very sensitive to water quality. Because their diet is mostly fish, any toxins that the fish accumulate from their lives in the river will wind up adversely affecting the otters.

I hope the otters are back for good. I hope people will learn to appreciate them from what they are. I hope that one day we can have a regulated otter trapping season, just as we now do with fishers and bobcats. Both bobcats and fishers were once quite rare in the state. The fisher entirely disappeared, and only returned through reintroducing them from New Hampshire. The bobcats are now common enough that they can be seen slinking around the outskirts of towns.

Someday the otters will be the common. People will tell you about seeing an otter, and it will be like saying that one has seen a deer or a rabbit or a raccoon.

They will become part of the landscape again.

If only we don’t screw this up again.

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