While every day at WRC is rewarding and filled with moments of deep satisfaction, yesterday was a very special day.
Two juvenile river otters, which we’ve raised for the past eight weeks, were released at the Rapids Lake area of the Minnesota Valley National Wildlife Refugee near Carver. Releases are usually intriguing, often unpredictable and sometimes exciting; yesterday’s release was that and more. The otters were certainly ready to be free. They were snarly and aggressive when we captured them for the trip to freedom.
In addition to US Fish and Wildlife officials, our staff and some of our summer interns, KARE11 joined us to film the release and aired it on last night’s news. Here’s a full-page display of the news video.
River Otters are a difficult species to raise. They get very stressed during handling, their diet is challenging and requires introducing a variety of foods, including live prey (such as the crayfish you’ve seen in an earlier post). As they grow older they require significant space and high water quality. Their aggressive nature makes it difficult to monitor their progress. They are also social and seldom do well alone.
We (and the otters) were fortunate in this case. We rarely see otters, yet these two came to us just five days apart – on June 10 and June 15. And the later arrival came from Belle Plain, near the release site.
We’re very grateful to the US Fish and Wildlife staff for finding an appropriate site at the National Wildlife Refugee and for giving us permission to do the release. USFW staff have seen otters all along the Minnesota River Valley. This release is a celebration of our success in raising these otters and is also symbolically important since the presence of otters is an indicator of improving river habitat on the Minnesota River.
Here’s more information on River Otters.