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Otto the Otter the newest addition at Bays Mountain Park

Matthew Lane • Jan 2, 2018 at 8:54 AM

KINGSPORT — Bays Mountain Park has a new addition: a river otter named Otto.

The 9-month-old otter arrived at the park from a rehabilitation facility in North Carolina near the end of October. Naturalist Krystal Haney said Otto and his sibling lost their home and their parents in a flood last spring near Elizabeth City.

“The rehab facility raised them with the hopes of releasing them, but by keeping them they had lost their fear of humans, so they didn’t release them,” Haney said. “One went to Grandfather Mountain and we took the other one.”

Bays Mountain Park has had otters for years, most recently two males named Charlie and Kringle. However, Kringle passed away in 2016 and the park has been looking for a replacement ever since.

“Charlie is older, about 13 years old, and we introduced (Otto) and there’s been no fighting. They got along right away,” said Senior Naturalist Megan Krager. “We could probably add one or two more if we could find any that needed to be placed. They’re not just very common to find one able to be placed.”

River otters are indigenous to Tennessee and most of the ones taken in by rehabilitation facilities are often able to be released back into the wild. The ones that aren’t go to places like Bays Mountain.

Krager said river otters are nocturnal animals and are often seen in the morning and around dusk. Sometimes Charlie and Otto will come out during the day depending on their activities, but for the most part they stay hidden during the daylight hours.

“Charlie had a tendency to come out when he wanted to because he is not as sociable and Otto is very sociable,” Krager said. “We’ve been working with him since he arrived on socialization and being out in the habitat a little bit more for people to enjoy, so he has a tendency to be out more than Charlie.”

Otto is the second animal recently added at Bays Mountain. This past July, the park added Jamie, a 1-year-old male red fox that came from a local rehab facility.

About the North American river otter

Weight: 11 to 30 pounds

Average life span in the wild: 8 to 9 years

Diet: River otters hunt at night and feed on whatever might be available, including fish, amphibians, turtles and crayfish.

Habitat: River otters can easily live in the water and on land, making their home in a burrow near the water’s edge. They can thrive in a river, lake, swamp or estuary ecosystem. Otter abodes feature numerous tunnels, one of which usually allows them to come and go from the water.

Trivia: River otters can hold their breath underwater for eight minutes.

Source: National Geographic

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