River otters have been seen at all times of the year on Dewees Island, with more sightings in the winter than in the summer. According to the DNR website, ” Adult otters measure 35 to 55 inches in length, about one-third of which is tail. ” Otters find impounded wetlands to be ideal habitat, and make good use of the easy fishing found in that habitat. Primary prey is fish, but other aquatic animals like turtles, crabs, mollusks, and even waterfowl. They breed in late winter and early spring, with young born in late winter. Litters observed on the island have had two or three kits, and a group of three grown otters has been seen several times in the winter of 2013-14.
Development and increased boat traffic are factors contributing to species decline, although the populations of South Carolina are relatively healthy. According to the South Carolina Aquarium, an otter’s fur contains about 156,000 hairs per square inch, providing them with incredible insulation during cold weather.
Otters are slightly larger than mink, and have webbed feet. According to Wikipedia, “River otters can remain underwater for nearly 4 minutes, swim at speeds approaching 11 km/h (6.8 mph), dive to depths nearing 20 m (22 yd), and travel up to 400 m (440 yd) while underwater. Several river otters may even cooperate while fishing. Small fish are eaten at the surface, but larger ones are taken to the shore to be consumed. Live fish are typically eaten from the head.”
The aquarium has a wonderful otter exhibit, where you can watch them feed and play. This video (look at about 56 seconds) shows how the otters interact with visitors there.
Otters on Dewees Island are most often seen in the impoundment, and usually in winter. Details and photos of sightings here:
7/26/2011: Otter family crosses the road at Chapel Pond
1/16/2011 Otters fishing with video
They appear at the end of this video: a minute of winter (pardon the lack of a tripod)
Dewees Island Otters from Judy Drew Fairchild on Vimeo.
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