A Disturbance in the Wetlands

Top Photo: Ripples in the water.

Near the end of the day, two museum visitors coming up from the wetlands in Explore the Wild stopped me to ask a question, “Are there otters in the wetlands?” Apparently, they’d seen something that “looked very much like an otter.”

River otter surveys its surroundings.

I thought perhaps they’d seen a mink. I’ve seen mink fairly often down in the wetlands. But when our guests mentioned there were two of them, a picture of frolicking otters flashed across my brain. I’ve only ever seen mink alone. More frequently, the otters I’ve observed were with one or more companions.

As I descended the 750 foot boardwalk into the wetlands I noticed large rings of bright water emanating from somewhere near the Main Wetlands Overlook. As I approached the overlook I could see a bow wave headed off to the right followed by small bubbles created by some object moving swiftly beneath the surface. There were two bow waves. An otter surfaced. Another otter surfaced. A few quick gasps for air, and back under.

Two otters.
Otter glances my way.
Back under.

The otters moved around the wetlands sticking close to shore and remaining under water, except to catch a breath or chew on whatever it was they were catching as they foraged below the surface (hopefully, red swamp crawfish).

Surfacing under boardwalk to chew on prey.

I’d seen otter here in the wetlands only once before, but had seen their sign, scat and footprints, a couple of times. When they visit they seem to come and go, we’re just a stop along the way in wherever it is they’re going on any particular day.

River otter pose.

I watched the animals dive, roll and feast for more time than I had, I was in the process of closing down the outdoor areas of the museum for the day. In the end, we closed a few minutes later than we might have, but it was worth it.

Any day’s a good day when you’ve seen an otter!

A lucky day, for sure.


It seems I was wrong, the otters appear to have stuck around. There was at least one in the wetlands the following morning and again towards closing time (4:30 PM).

2 responses to A Disturbance in the Wetlands

  1. Ian Pond says:

    We have river otters visit Beaver Marsh too. Beaver Marsh is an ECWA nature preserve behind Compare Foods/Big Lots off Avondale Drive. They come up Ellerbe Creek, access the marsh via a tributary, hunt over-night and then return to the creek early morning. Trail cameras have caught as many as four at a time visiting the marsh!

    • gregdodge says:

      Yes, probably the same group of otters visit both wetlands, ours and Beaver Marsh. Our wetlands connects to Ellerbe Creek, via stream, behind our parking deck, a backroad on the river highway system. No doubt our beavers too, come to us from the same area (Beaver Marsh), as do our mink. Its a short trip up or down the creek.

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