The reappearance of otters in our hills is a hopeful sign that the capacity of our rivers and landscapes to support wildlife is improving.
River otters – intelligent, engaging, and famously playful – appear to be returning to our hills. They have been known in the Nottawasaga watershed for some time and have recently been observed at several locations in the Grand River watershed including Luther Marsh.
And now, at least one otter has appeared in the Credit River watershed. In February I identified otter tracks on a friend’s property north of Glen Williams.
The tracks skirted the edge of an ice-covered quarry pond before rising and crossing my friend’s front yard. In classic otter fashion, the footfalls were separated by shallow troughs, where the otter slid along the snow.
According to Jon Clayton of Credit Valley Conservation, this is only the fifth time an otter has been recorded in the Credit River Watershed. Jon also indicated that this may be the only record supported by photographic evidence (of the tracks).
Otters range widely. Is this a one-off? This is otter breeding season, so perhaps the tracks were left by a lonely male in search of love. Or perhaps the track maker is a part of a small resident Credit watershed population that until now has slid under the radar.
Regardless, finding these tracks is another hopeful sign that otters may be recolonizing their former Headwaters territories. Decades ago, like many other animals, they were extirpated – victims of habitat loss and unregulated hunting and trapping. (My article on past wildlife in Headwaters in the new spring issue of In The Hills explores this issue in more detail.)
The reappearance of otters in our hills is a hopeful sign that the capacity of our rivers and landscapes to support wildlife is improving. Here’s hoping that more of these energetic, animated creatures will soon swim and slide through Headwaters wetlands.