A gentle resident appears on candid camera

MIKE BOTTINI PHOTO | A rare river otter peers into the lens of a night-sensitive camera manned by staff at the Long Island River Project.

Remote cameras installed at the Mashomack Preserve on Shelter Island this past spring  captured some private moments  of a river otter during the months of April, August, November.

All the images show a single otter. At this point in the study there’s no evidence of a breeding pair on the Island, according to the Long Island River Otter Project. The project’s Shelter Island component is  funded by The Nature Conservancy, the Peconic Baykeeper and South Ferry.

The mating season for river otters is January through March, and winter photographs will be important in determining whether or not there is a breeding pair here, the LIROP said in a release.

Despite their common name, river otters (Lontra canadensis) will utilize any “nearshore” aquatic habitat, including estuaries, ponds and bays, where they can obtain fish and crabs, the mainstays of their diet.

River otters were forcibly exiled from much of their range in North America, including most of New York State, as a result of unregulated trapping. They were protected by state law in New York in 1936 when a nine-year moratorium on trapping them was enacted. Since then, their distribution has expanded in New York from a small population in the Adirondacks to the Catskills and Hudson River watershed. A reintroduction program initiated by the NYSDEC in the 1990s enabled them to recolonize parts of western New York.

Otters have established a foothold on the north shore of Nassau County and western Suffolk on Long Island in recent years, most likely the result of young otters dispersing from coastal Connecticut and WestchesterCounty.