Three North American river otters experienced a taste of freedom after nearly eight months at the Clinic for the Rehabilitation of Wildlife when they were released successfully in Punta Gorda on September 27.
The first North American river otter arrived at CROW in February, with others following through March. One was transferred from a rehabilitation facility in Fort Lauderdale and the other two were transferred from rehabilitation facilities near Tampa.
The otters spent the better part of the year at CROW to replicate the amount of time they would spend with their parent learning how to hunt for prey on their own. Due to these otters being orphaned at a young age, the staff of CROW made sure they duplicated those efforts through enrichment items and live prey offered on a regular basis.
“River otters are a very special species and rely on their family group to learn skills needed for survival,” CROW’s Hospital Director Dr. Heather Barron said in a prepared statement. “Often times, when a rehab center gets in one otter, other centers will send otters to them, so they can be raised together.”
The four otters had a soft release before Hurricane Irma touched Southwest Florida, resulting in them sticking around the property. The soft release entailed them opening the doors to the enclosure for shelter, and providing food within.
“They didn’t want to eat anything. They took shelter underneath the stairwell. When we were allowed on the island we found them just hanging out. They really didn’t eat,” CROW Rehabber Yvette Carrasco said. “They were distracted and they really didn’t eat when they were out and about.”
CROW staff ended up recapturing them, which Carrasco explained to be a stress free event because they walked into the crate.
Although four were recaptured, one remains at the hospital under a treatment plan due to a wound on the pad of one of its feet.
CROW had six otters under their care this season. Two had already been released at J.N. “Ding” Darling National Wildlife Refuge.
Thank you to Meghan McCoy at the Island Reporter for this excerpt from her article.