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Otters spotted in Bass Lake

Photo by Gina Stump

It’s not often you get to see a river otter in our neck of the woods. Gail Davis, of Spencer Township, sent us these photos taken by her neighbor, Gina Stump, of otters frolicking in Bass Lake. 

Photo by Gina Stump

“We’ve had otters on the ice for the last week,” she wrote. “The ice was melting off in front of our house and we watched four otters popping in and out of holes until all the ice melted. Yesterday another neighbor counted 5. They still had ice in front of their house. We’ve watched them here before but it’s been years.”

Gail also said she had a video of an eagle that landed on the ice next to a hole where an otter was eating a fish, but the otter dove into the water before the eagle landed.

The greatest population of otters in our state is in upper and northern Lower Michigan, with a lower density to the south.

According to animaldiversity.org, North American river otters are found anywhere there is a permanent food supply and easy access to water. They can live in freshwater and coastal marine habitats, including rivers, lakes, marshes, swamps, and estuaries. River otters can tolerate a variety of environments, including cold and warmer latitudes and high elevations. North American river otters seem to be sensitive to pollution and disappear from areas with polluted waters.

They are excellent swimmers and divers, and able to stay underwater for up to 8 minutes. They are also fast on land, and capable of running at up to 18 mph/hr. Otters normally hunt at night, but can be seen at all times of day. They normally eat aquatic organisms (fish, turtle, crabs, amphibians, etc.) and usually take slow, non-game fish, such as suckers.

Otters mate in late winter or early spring. Other than that, males and females do not associate. They can last 8 or 9 years in the wild.

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