We’re kicking off a series of articles profiling our favorite neighbors with an in-depth look at the otters around the marina. If you’re lucky and observant, you might spot a North American River Otter the next time you’re visiting 321 Boat in Melbourne, Florida. These playful creatures are a fascinating part of the local ecosystem and are always curious about humans. Let’s learn more about these fascinating animals and how you can spot them on your next boating, kayaking, or paddle boarding adventure!
What are North American River Otters?
North American river otters are a type of aquatic mammal that is native to, you guessed it, North America. They are members of the weasel family and are closely related to other animals such as badgers, skunks, and minks. River otters are predators and their diet consists mostly of fish, crayfish, and amphibians. They are expert swimmers and can stay underwater for up to eight minutes at a time! North American river otters can grow to be up to five feet long and weigh up to 26 pounds.
Where can you find them in the Indian River Lagoon?
The Indian River Lagoon is home to a large population of North American river otters. They can be found throughout the lagoon, but are most commonly seen near seagrass beds and mangrove forests. If you’re boating, kayaking, or paddle boarding in the lagoon, keep your eyes peeled for these playful creatures! Otters are curious creatures and are also likely to be found near human activity, including boaters and fisherman. They like to observe our behavior and may even chatter and chirp at you to say hello!
How can you spot them?
North American river otters are relatively easy to spot if you know what to look for. They are very active creatures and are often seen swimming, playing, and wrestling with each other. Otters are also known to slide down muddy banks and roll in the sand, so keep an eye out for these activities as well along the shores of the Lagoon while you’re boating around. If you see an otter swimming on its back, it’s likely that it’s eating something. Otters often eat their prey in the water and will flip onto their backs to use their belly as a table. Keep your distance if you see an otter with its food or with babies, as they are known to be protective of their meals and their offspring!
Why are they important to the ecosystem?
North American river otters play an important role in the ecosystem of the Indian River Lagoon. As predators, they help to keep the population of fish, crayfish, and amphibians in check. This helps to maintain a balance in the food web and prevents any one species from becoming too populous. Because they’re top predators, their presence and population in an area can provide a helpful indication for scientists and other watchdogs as to the health of the local ecosystem.
What should you do if you see one?
If you’re lucky enough to spot a North American river otter in the wild, there are a few things you should keep in mind. Otters are wild animals and they can be dangerous if they feel threatened. It’s important to give them space and not to approach them too closely. If you see an otter in the wild, admire it from a distance! You should also report anyone you see trapping or otherwise harassing otters, as they’re a protected species and it’s illegal to do so. By helping us keep an eye on them, we can protect these amazing creatures and ensure that they can continue to thrive in the Indian River Lagoon.
North American river otters are amazing creatures that play an important role in the ecosystem of the Indian River Lagoon. If you’re lucky enough to spot one, admire it from a distance and enjoy watching these playful animals! Finally, don’t forget to share your awesome wildlife photos with the team at 321 Boat… we love seeing them and may even feature them on our social media.
Ready to meet the otters of the Indian River Lagoon? Book your boat today and get the adventure started!