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River otters on the Dupe?


Steve S.
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"Although otter populations statewide have grown, Chicago Wilderness otters are still rare. “From 1994 to 2004, we had 12 reliable sightings of river otters in the Des Plaines River and Lake Michigan Tributaries Population Management Unit, 18 in the Fox River System PMU, and five in the Kankakee-Iroquois River System PMU,” says Bob Bluett, a biologist with the Illinois Department of Natural Resources."

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"Why I Otter

Though otters have prospered since their reintroduction in 1994, they remain rare and secretive. The speedy, sausage-shaped Mustelid that people often mistake for an otter is more likely a mink, hunting for muskrat."

 

I have seen otter in WI and they are large. Even though he swam all up and down the river, I'm pretty sure I saw a mink.

 

I wish I had my zoom lens on, so sorry for the quality.

 

here's the little bugger:

 

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I know what you mean. I had one pop up right at my feet when I was below the dam. I really didn't know what to expect next, but it seems he was just curious. They are really larger in person than I imagined. Pretty neat mammals.

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Otter was the first thing that popped into my head, but the animal was small (not that there aren't small otters). I have seen minks before in WI, and they were usually in & out of the water a lot, though more out I would say. Also, they were a little on the mean side!

 

The mammal I saw Sunday just swam up and downstream most of the time. But, looking at the cropped close-ups, the head shape is that of a mink and the overall body size is that of a mink.

 

So, its a mink......... I think.

 

Either way, its good to see the diversity of wildlife along a beautiful stream. I also saw many green frogs, a couple spiny softshell turtles, great blue heron, a variety of songbirds (lots of cardinals again), one garter snake, plenty of deer tracks, and I caught smallmouth bass, largemouth bass, a pumpkinseed, a green sunfish, and saw many carp and suckers.

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Yep. I agree it's a mink...

 

...but you never know what might pop up where. I've seen otter on the Middle Fork down here and there have been some efforts to reintroduce them. Big animals like that can move long distances and if the Dupe has enough habitat (certainly it has enough forage) who's to say an otter might not show up some day.

 

I have a question here. How urbanized was this setting? I was managing a lake that had a successfully reproducing population of mink right in town. I've been curious about how well they do in urban settings ever since.

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Tim

 

The section I spotted the mink at was "footsteps" away from the main street in town, with residential homes on the opposite bank. I would guess there is a 100 yard buffer between the road and the bank (in some instances less). I kept watching to see what it might be hunting for (another Clamburglar in the works?). I don't know if the minks are swift enough to run down fish or not, but it sure looked pretty agile in the water.

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Tim

 

The section I spotted the mink at was "footsteps" away from the main street in town, with residential homes on the opposite bank. I would guess there is a 100 yard buffer between the road and the bank (in some instances less). I kept watching to see what it might be hunting for (another Clamburglar in the works?). I don't know if the minks are swift enough to run down fish or not, but it sure looked pretty agile in the water.

 

Very cool, Steve.

 

Your mink was in a setting not unlike the one where I worked. In my case, they were in a subdivision with residential lots on every side. I guess they migrated in up the spillway from the creek.

 

Here's a cool story from that lake.

 

I had been working on the lake and happened to notice a family of ducks (a hen and half-grown ducklings) were sitting stock still in the water. "Stock still" is not what ducks normally do...so I stopped to watch. One by one the ducks popped up and flapped away into open water, leaving the other ducks still sitting perfectly still in the weeds. Again, separating that way is very odd for ducks, especially a family of ducks, so I kept watching. The last duck to pop up and fly away was the hen. When she left, a mink's head popped up out of the water in the spot where the hen had been resting. About the same time, a whole family of mink popped out of the bushes on the bank. I guess the mink in the water had been unsuccessfully attacking each duck in succession while the other ducks sat still trying to avoid detection...while the mink family watched from the bushes.

 

As far as diets..mink do take fish, but the food habits studies I've seen show that they capture more crayfish and frogs. They'll take a muskrat and the like. I'm not sure about clams....hmmm.

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Interesting topic- now you have me searching, Tim.

The mink is a carnivorous animal. It always hunts around nighttime. From dusk to dawn, they hunt animals to bring back to their den. Much of the minks' food is stored for later because it has a habit of killing more food than what is needed to survive. A mink can sometimes go out and kill so many animals in one hunt to store food in its den for a whole month. Minks hunt for and eat mice, rabbits, squirrels, earthworms, waterfowl, domestic poultry, chipmunks, crabs, clams, crayfish, snakes, cottontails, meadow voles, all kind of insects, and shrews. The minks' all time favorite animal to eat is the muskrat. They like to eat the young the most. Even though some of the animals listed above are not animals of the wetland areas, the mink travels to get them. Males are the ones that usually hunt and kill the larger animals and females tend to stick to hunting and killing the smaller animals. On the other side, many animals hunt minks also. Some of the animals that eat minks are foxes, the lynx, great-horned owls, snowy owls and sometimes bobcats.

http://www.twingroves.district96.k12.il.us...inkFoodWeb.html

 

Minks eat their young when there is too much noise. See Lahar v. Barnes, 353 Mich. 408 (1958); Kellogg v. Village of Viola, 67 Wis.2d 345 (1975). Your correspondent is not sure exactly what this means.
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Minks eat their young when there is too much noise. See Lahar v. Barnes, 353 Mich. 408 (1958); Kellogg v. Village of Viola, 67 Wis.2d 345 (1975). Your correspondent is not sure exactly what this means.

 

HA! Boy I know 2 noisy kids who are lucky their daddy isn't a mink.

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HA! Boy I know 2 noisy kids who are lucky their daddy isn't a mink.

 

LOL!

 

Very funny!

 

This particular mink cruised the river for the most part, diving periodically to scavange/hunt. Perhaps this one was searching out crayfish. I will be careful from now on when fishing the YUM Crawbug! They must be pretty scrappy to take on muskrats, considering their size. I saw another one about 1/2 mile downstream from the first sighting. I thought it might be the same one, but now I'm thinking it was a separate animal. In WI, I have watched the otter travel well downstream before disappearing around the bend or just out of my sight. I'm wondering if they are more nomadic than the mink.

 

Thanks for the info.

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I saw a very small mink successfully hunting while I was kayaking/wading the Kish last November. It pulled a rather large salamander out of a rock pile and had a happy spring in his step as he bounded off with it.

 

As for otters, we came across a family of them in Canada at a fly in cabin when we all brought cheezy inflatable rafts so we could fish below a rarely used portage. The walleye fishing was nonstop, every single cast until they showed up. Then it literally shut down for a few minutes while they moved through. The parents were very vocal about us being in what had to be one of their favorite mealtime spots. It was one of my all-time favorite outdoor moments and made the trip worthwhile just for that interaction alone.

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  • 1 month later...
Hey DuPage River folks:

 

Has anyone seen an otter on the DuPage before? I believe I saw one today. I'm checking on the geographical range now.

 

 

I've had a few encounters with these on the West Branch Dupage at Wash st. I Was able to search these and learned that they are indeed Mink. Mink act in a very similar way to the otter. I've had them swim up to me and one was so playful and inquisitive that he swam around me and between my legs!

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That's interesting Josh. I'm amazed (and pleased) to see wildlife so close to home. I'm hoping there is enough balance in the ecosystem to support these animals and that I'm not just seeing them because they are overpopulating and/or running out of places to go. The green area along the river provides some habitat, and at least enough for safe passage between larger areas. In the same area I saw the mink, I've recently seen a coyote in the middle of the afternoon, as well as deer, raccoons, opposums. I wish I knew more about birds, because I see many that I cannot identify by sight or sound. They sure are beautiful though.

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