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On The Otter Hand *

By Margaret Lyons in News on Dec 12, 2007 5:18PM


We thought we'd been hearing jugbands downtown recently, and now we know we have: River otters are making a comeback in Chicago waterways. According to the Chris Anchor, chief biologist for Cook County (jobs we didn't know existed: that one), "Almost all the watersheds in Cook County have otters. They're everywhere...there's definitely otters downtown." No one's sure exactly why the otters have re-emerged, but the Brookfield Zoo and Forest Preserve District will be tagging and tracking the furry critters, so information should be forthcoming.
"They're kind of like the coyotes," Anchor says. Like coyotes, they're also "opportunistic" in what they're eating. Apparently, they're chowing down on road kill in addition to their typical diet of fish. Cute and carnivorous! God, that's a dream combo.

2007_12_12.riverotter1.jpgRiver otters can be up to 3 feet long and weigh about 30 pounds, but if you think that sounds big, well, you must not know about giant otters (aka "lobos de rio," which means river wolf), which can be nearly 6 feet long and weigh up to 70 pounds. Bah, ROUS alert. River otters are playful but pretty solitary; the only time the pal around is during mating season and when mothers care for their pups. [Smithsonian, Animal Diversity Web]

Keep your eyes peeled. We're all on otter alert now.

Photos from Dmitry Azovtsev and the Smithsonian

*So many available puns. Please, top this.