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Welcome Back, Otter

December 12th, 2007 · 1 Comment · Chicago, Illinois, Nature, News, Science

Forget about the possums, the raccoons, even the coyotes turning up in our urban environment.

There are now officially otters in the Chicago River.

Thousands of commuters were walking past Union Station on the day that Chris Anchor happened to see a dream made flesh.

Furry otter flesh, to be exact.

I know, I know. It sounds like it’s going to be an article about a fetish party at a downtown hotel. But bear with it (you should pardon the turn of phrase) …

Anchor glanced at the Chicago River and noticed something strange on the bank — a cone-shaped pile, made up of fish scales and a carp head.

The pile of food scraps suggested a specific feeding animal. The North American river otter leaves its garbage in neat cone-shaped piles.

I had a roommate who did that exact same thing! Except her neat cone-shaped piles were mostly cigarette ash.

And they weren’t so neat. But they were piles. And they were cone-shaped!

Wait, we were talking about otters.

Otters disappeared from the area a century or so back as population and development surged.

Anchor isn’t sure where they’re now coming from. They may have migrated from Wisconsin along the Fox and Des Plaines rivers, or traveled up north from the Kankakee River. They also might be traced to Louisiana. Otters caught by trappers in Louisiana were re-introduced in Illinois waterways by state officials 10 to 15 years ago, Anchor said. The closest release to Chicago was north of Danville, he said.

Many area waterways have seen a resurgence in fish populations, providing otters a steady food supply. “We have tons and tons of carp available,” Anchor said.

Well — at least somebody will be enjoying all those Asian carp.

UPDATE: Wow, I totally forgot to make a governor-of-Idaho type joke. Fortunately I covered that ground a while back.


One Comment so far ↓

  • Aaron

    Somehow, even though I know they’ve been displaced, it gives me a little bit of hope to see animal populations returning to the area. Considering all the ones we’ve driven out, that is…

    And I love otters–the animal kind AND the fetish kind! (Although the two loves are quite separate.)