Being surrounded by a small nature preserve is a wonderful thing in my opinion. When most of the world seems to be covered in concrete and artificial things, it is just comforting to be able to witness nature, even if from a distance. Since our condo in Sebastian was constructed in 2007, the nature preserve continues to thrive. For some unknown reason, the condo association decided to meddle with nature and hired a botanist come in to remove what was termed unnatural under brush. Unfortunately, the removal of the underbrush has left our nature preserve looking like it has had a bad haircut. I am just hoping a healthy dose of spring will return it to its natural glory once again and I hope even more that the humans will meddle into something else besides nature!
On Monday, I had a mysterious visitor and I think he was as surprised to see me as I was him. Kili and I were walking next to a natural pond and out scampered a very large black otter. Because of the size, I am relatively certain it was a male. This was one big, black, sleek animal. He crawled out of one pond and climbed over a natural grassy berm and jumped into the next pond with a very large splash. He swam around playfully as if having a little fun with me and disappeared into a sea of talapia that have filled the pond from the river.
These partially aquatic, slender, long-bodied mammals are known for finding and capturing prey in the water. The broad flattened head has numerous stiff whiskers around their nose and snout. These wiskers are used for locating prey underwater. Otters have a long muscular tail, short stout legs and thick oiled fur. Small rounded ears and nostrils close when the otter is underwater. In Florida, river otters weigh from 15 to 35 pounds.
River otters forage alone or in pairs. I am told by neighbors that there are two pairs of sea otters hanging out here along the banks of the river. They are active during the day and at night, hunting in streams, rivers and ponds for fish, crayfish and turtles. Otters have a high metabolic rate, therefore they need to eat 15% of their body weight each day to thrive.
Although otters always remain in or near the water, they spend their inactive time in burrows dug into riverbanks or in dens located on land. Otters are very vocal and have a large repertoire of calls. They have the ability to do bird-like chirping calls that you would not automatically link to a sea otter.
The otter breeds once a year and in Florida mating occurs in fall and winter. Though the embryos actually develop for about 8 weeks, gestation can last for 11 to 12 months because of the extended period of delayed implantation. Litters usually consist of 2-3 young, which are born fully furred. The young open their eyes after a month and are weaned at three months. They travel and feed with their mother until they are about a year old.
River otters are the most commonly encountered of Florida’s mustelids; they are found throughout the state except the Keys. It is not uncommon to see an otter if you are canoeing or kayaking in one of central Florida’s springs or rivers. Florida otters have been know to become somewhat agressive, so like any other living creature in the wild, it is best to admire them from a distance and leave them alone. I oftentimes take the side of the animals when I hear of agressive or unusual behavior because in all likelyhood, some human has encroached on their turf. The nature preserve here is their turf, and we will give them their space!
A happy Monday here in Sebastain surrounded by our little nature preserve – what a wonderful place for Geoffrey and I to prepare for our Mt. Kilimanjaro climb. Physically we are close to being ready. It is days like this when we are able to wrap our thoughts in nature, that we prepare our minds for the mountain. No negativity flowing through our heads – we breath deep and take in all the positives that life has to offer – life is good – and it is all up hill from here! pkp