Around the Island

River otters sighted at Mashomack Preserve

MIKE BOTTINI PHOTO A remote camera catches a river otter near a pond at Mashomack Preserve.
A remote camera catches a river otter near a pond at Mashomack Preserve.

The snow this past month has allowed naturalists to document species and behavior that often occur unseen due to skittish creatures or nocturnal habits. The river otter is a good example.

Are there otters on Long Island? The last study that attempted to answer that question was conducted in the early 1960s and was part of a broader survey inventorying all of the species of mammals found on Long Island. It did not find any evidence of otters here.

The river otter (lontra canadensis) was once common on Long Island, utilizing both freshwater and estuarine habitats to hunt for its main prey: fish. Unregulated trapping, habitat loss and water pollution caused its extermination from much of its range in North America, including Long Island.

The enactment of wildlife conservation laws and water pollution standards, and the establishment of wildlife preserves, has enabled many wildlife populations to recover, including the river otter. Since the 1980s, there has been an increase in the number of otter sightings on Long Island. Mashomack Preserve Director Mike Laspia has recorded as many otter sightings as anyone on Long Island, making the Preserve one of the focuses of Mike Bottini’s 2008 Long Island River Otter survey.

With Mr. Laspia’s help, the survey documented and mapped two freshwater ponds at Mashomack that otters are visiting. With funding from the Nature Conservancy, Mr. Bottini initiated a remote camera study in 2012 to learn more about otters.

Mr. Bottini will present an update on his research on Saturday, March 14 from 9 to 11 a.m. at Mashomack’s Manor House, followed by a brief excursion to find signs of river otters.

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