WILD THING WEDNESDAY – North American River Otter
Even though most of Horicon Marsh freezes over in the winter months, there are a few areas where natural current from springs, the Rock River or artificial water movement from a pump house keeps the surface of the water open during extended cold. It is in these pockets where this week’s Wild Thing Wednesday is most likely to be found, the river otter. Closely related to weasels and skunks, river otters are expert fish hunters but will also consume mussels, crayfish, and amphibians. Although they live in Horicon Marsh year-round, their need for open water mostly isolates them to areas where there is enough current to prevent the surface from becoming ice covered. Otters are excellent swimmers, with webbed feet for propulsion and long tails for maneuvering. Winter chills do nothing to keep them out of the water, as their thick double coats are equipped with water repelling oils that make for excellent insulation. Although best known for swimming, otters are speedy on land as well, travelling with rapid bounds or sliding down snow-covered inclines. They often travel in groups, with their fast-paced hunting tactics and social interactions making them seem very playful. When snow cover on the marsh is just right, we often find their telltale slide marks on our trail system, reminding us to keep a close watch fast paced furbearer.