Whidbey Island Research Station (WIRS) Updates

Patches is back!

This is an image capture from an infrared video along a den site at Admiralty Beach on November 27, 2019 at 2:35 am. She is traveling to Admiralty Bay to feed in a romp of 3 other otters. Although she has not been “missing,” her last confirmed citing was in August of 2019.

Muzzle markings provide identifications…

Patches in May of 2019 (in estrus), notice the two distinct spots under each nostril in both photos.

Appreciation and Project Updates

A friend suggested a blog in place of a newsletter, as it is a more contemporary, paperless approach to sharing information and updates. It also allows you to control your updates and membership. So, welcome to the WIRS first blog post! This one will be longer given I have a lot to report, subsequent blogs will be much shorter. Also please let me know if you would like more information about something specific.

Appreciation: A quick shout-out to Jan and Karl Smith (Bush Point), Susan Carpenter (Bells Beach), Pam Stein (Strawberry Point), Barb Nichols, Bob Wilbur, and Kurt Blankenship (Admirals Cove), Janet Johnson (Goss Lake), Doug Clark (Clinton), and Sherri Hedman (Freeland) for their correspondence of otter presence, scat collections, and/or infrared video placement on their property. Also a big thank you as always to the folks at the Whidbey Camano Land Trust and Whidbey Environmental Action Network, I am so grateful for your support.

Research Update: The Whidbey Island River Otter Research project is in the second year of data collection. We have one month left to collect diet data. If you would like a quick introduction to the defined goals of the WIRS river otter research, please click the link here for a summary. Below is a graph-to-date of the prey diversity of the Whidbey river otter populations across the island.

Grant funding has also begun. A smaller grant was sent off this week for the genetic fingerprinting protocols – that is, through scat collection we hope to run genetic fingerprints (like you see on CSI) to identify individual otters across the Island. This is the most benign, nonintrusive approach to clarify population range and foraging distribution. A second larger grant proposal will (hopefully) be submitted by the end of spring for scat analysis of endocrine disrupting chemicals, including brominated flame retardants (see Seattle Times 2017 for information on Whidbey Island watershed contamination), stress hormones, and parasitology. We also hope to include students in summer research at WIRS.

Scat Collection and Otter Spotting Volunteers Needed!

If you have otters in your area, please report them to the WIRS Citizen Scientist Otter Reporting Website here (you can also find the Citizen Scientist Otter Reporting link on the Home page). For the truly industrious and committed, I have specimen collection kits prepared for those who have active latrines along their property. Please contact me if you would like one, I will deliver it to you! I am on Island from December through the end of January. Further, if you have “problem” river otters occupying your decks, boats, or boathouses, please do not hesitate to contact me, I am interested in finding a solution for you and the otters. I would also be happy to plant an infrared camera in locations of heavy otter traffic – I share all images with the property owner.

Citizen Scientist Collection Kit

Holiday Shopping?

How about river otter greeting cards for the holidays? WIRS river otter cards (two different image options) are for sale at the Langley Whale Center. All proceeds for the sale of the WIRS cards go to benefit whale conservation.