The two river otters traveling together in the Mill Neck, NY area shown above appear to be checking out a man-made hole in the ground. Evidence of river otters at several latrine sites in this area has been documented, but this was one of the first photos of otters captured at this particular site since the camera was installed last February. This camera site represents one of the routes these otters use to get around a dam, and in the process, forcing them to cross a road in one of the waterways they travel and hunt.
The North American river otter (Lontra canadensis) was historically found in most of Long Island’s waterways including the East End’s fresh and saltwater creeks and ponds, and its estuaries. Although the species suffered a dramatic population decline in North America during the 1800s and was believed to be locally extirpated from Long Island, recent research initiated by Mike Bottini has documented that the river otter is slowly making a comeback here, with most of the Long Island population centered on the north shore of Nassau County and northwestern Suffolk. At least one otter currently calls the East End its home with an established territory spanning Shelter Island and part of Southold. Pictured above, this river otter was photographed using a remote camera at one of several latrine sites at Mashomack Preserve on Shelter Island. River otters are top-of-the-food-chain predators and non-migratory, therefore playing an important role as indicators of water quality and the health of our local wetland ecosystems. For more information about the Long Island River Otter Project, please visit Mike Bottini’s website.