Thursday, October 11, 2012

River Otters At Abrams Falls In GSMNP

Once commonly sited in Cades Cove, otters were all but eliminated from the Great Smoky Mountain National Park in the 1920's. The reason? Their beautiful pelts brought a pretty price in those days. What a shame as Cades Cove was once an especially safe haven for the funny semi-aquatic creatures. The Cherokee called Cades Cove "Tsiyahi" meaning otter place. Fortunately otters have come back to the cove. One hundred-forty otters were reintroduced into the ecosystem by the officials of the Great Smoky Mountain National Park in the 1980's. Under the protective rules of GSMNP, the otters are now well established, especially in Abrams Creek and Little River.

River otter belong to the same family as weasels, skunks and minks. The are playful, cute animals that spend a good deal of their time in the water. They have a face that vaguely resembles a seal with small eyes, ears and lots of whiskers. Their bodies are fur-covered and they have short legs, webbed toes and a thick tail. Being nocturnal, they are rarely seen by the Smokies visitor.

A Family of otters was at Abrams Falls today swimming around enjoying the cool water on beautiful fall day .

Scientific Name: Lutra canadensis

Length: 35-52" with tail

Weight: 10-30 lbs.

Life span: Wild, 11-15 years

Captive, up to 20 years

Frogs, turtles, snakes, fish, crayfish and crabs. Occasionally rodents and birds.

Entire U.S., excluding deserts and the Florida Keys. Eliminated in parts of its historical range. Found along rivers, ponds, lakes and marshes. Dens in bank burrows, under trees and stumps, or in thick vegetation.

Special characteristics:
A river otter can dive to a depth of 55 feet. Otter populations are slowly increasing after being diminished in the past by excessive trapping for the fur trade.

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