Lynn Peterson says that in her 45 years at Hauser Lake, she’d never seen these critters until recently: Obnoxious otters. And Peterson says they’re leaving a mess on her recently built boat dock.
“They’re so cute scampering around the dock, usually early in the morning, but what they leave behind — not so much,” said the 79-year-old. “We’ve always had muskrats but nothing like this.”
The sudden intrusion of otters at Hauser Lake is no surprise to Kara Campbell, a wildlife biologist with the Idaho Department of Fish and Game. She’s just curious as to why they weren’t spotted before.
“They’ve always been around. We see a lot of them at local lakes, but we do see many more muskrats than we do otters,” Campbell said Friday. “They can be a nuisance and state law does allow trapping.”
A member of the weasel family, otters are recognized by their short ears with an elongated body and a long tail, which acts as a rudder when swimming. They have dense brown fur and webbed feet, Campbell said.
Otters eat mostly fish but can consume frogs, crayfish, snails, and small turtles.
And oh, the mess they leave behind.
“I’ve had my son out twice to clean it up,” Peterson said with a laugh.
The muskrats weren’t nearly as bad, she said. They confined their toilet matters to inside her boat house.
“And they didn’t leave as much behind,” Peterson said.
In contrast to otters, muskrats are a semiaquatic rodent, much smaller than an otter. They’re brown with bellies being grayish white, and they eat aquatic vegetation.
Campbell said otters and muskrats are both considered “furbearers,” which may be hunted and trapped. And for those who’d rather not trap the creatures, there are other options.
“I’ve read that electrical wire, sprays (made up of ammonia and cayenne pepper), bird spikes or moth balls may work,” Campbell said.