When River Otters Chuckle and Raccoons Chitter

July has been an exciting month for otter sightings, indeed for all wildlife on the Island. Patches was seen in Admiralty Bay with two new pups, likely spring births.

While a small female (unidentified) was found dead at Teronda West, just before the Fourth of July. Below is a photo taken within 24 hours post-mortem by Amanda Ford, a local resident and otter enthusiast, as well as a photo I took two days later when I was able to examine the carcass. The cause of death appeared to be from a wound to her throat, likely from a territorial conflict. Her body length from crown to tail was 49 inches, and her teeth had very little wear, likely only a year old. I salvaged the skull and the vertebral atlas (permit #Island19-282) and cleaned them using the State of Alaska’s Fish and Game salvage protocols (Note the dentary of the lower jaw are two separate bones and detach when the tissue is boiled off, thus requires glueing for an intact jaw). The skull will be a provided as an educational resource in my animal behavior course and in wildlife presentations.

Despite the discovery of the otter at Teronda West, I have received many reports across Whidbey from residents enjoying sightings of kinship groups as well as lone otters foraging in the intertidal areas. Below is a video of a kin group at Lake Pondilla, note the audible “chuckling.” River otters have a vocal repertoire of about 12 different vocalizations, the “chuckle” has been described as sounding like a grunt, snort, or purr.

Similarly, a raccoon sow and her three kits were also captured at Lake Pondilla via my infrared camera (permitted through Fort Ebey State Park, permit# 190801). You can hear the sow and her kits volley chitters back and forth as she attempts to coax them across a log. Bravo to mom for her extra vigilance – you will see her repeatedly monitoring the bank, that is because that area faces the hiking trail.

Along Admirals Lake in the Admirals Cove community, a beaver and coyote crossed paths within minutes of one another – note the coyote was fearful of the “evil red eye” of the infrared light on the camera (I need to get a different model – there are some that do not have such an overt light).

It has been a great month for wildlife.

Also, totally unrelated, but a great part of my week…thank you to Tony and Lindsay Blackner, who have been mentoring me in the fine art of beekeeping. Below is a photo of their hives and the “girls.”

Finally, a big “thank you” to Amanda Ford, Sarah Schmidt, Jann Ledbetter, Janet Johnston, and Jill Cooper for their sightings and reports this month!