Monday, November 17, 2008

The Long Island Otters

We have three small rivers in our town that flow into Long Island Sound -- the Mianus, the Mill and the Rippowam (which joins the Mill somewhere in Stamford) -- and in all of them river otters are not uncommon. You have to be lucky to see one, but a lot of people are lucky and have reported sightings.

It turns out that on Long Island river otters are far less common -- in fact a researcher quoted in this story estimates that there might be only a dozen or so on the whole island. But they seem to be breeding near Oyster Bay, in Nassau County, which is amazing:

Michael J. Bottini, a wildlife biologist from Springs, said a survey of likely otter habitats he carried out across Long Island last winter found unmistakable signs of a female and several pups living in and around the 60-acre Shu Swamp nature preserve in the Village of Mill Neck in Oyster Bay.

The signs were the distinctive fish scale-riddled droppings otters leave in waterside latrines that signal one another of their comings and goings.

Mr. Bottini, who heads the Long Island River Otter Project, theorizes that small numbers of otters may be picking their way along water routes from relatively otter-rich Connecticut and Westchester across western Long Island Sound to Nassau’s North Shore, and fanning out from there....

Following the otters’ logical route eastward, Mr. Bottini found signs in a Nissequogue River lagoon in Sunken Meadow State Park; by a pond in Smithtown’s Blydenburgh Park; on a tributary of the Peconic River in Southampton; in the Nature Conservancy's Mashomack Preserve on Shelter Island; and, following up a tip of a reported otter sighting, along the Forge River in Brookhaven.



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