by Maria Berkowitz –
The otter sighting in Virginia Tech’s Duck Pond has generated a large social media reaction from students and faculty. After Virginia Tech released pictures of the animal on the university’s Twitter and official Instagram page, everyone is wondering how and why the otter got in the pond.
According to the Virginia Department of Game and Inland Fisheries, in 1978 otters were listed as state endangered because “the clearing of stream banks, pollution, and overharvest virtually extirpated them from the western portion of the state.” However, in 1990 the animal was removed from the list due to improvement of stream habitats and efforts to supplement the natural migration of otters back to western Virginia.
Otters rarely appear in the Duck Pond and are more common in the New River. According to The Virginia Living Museum, “River otters inhabit a variety of habitats along rivers, lakes, streams, marshes, and coastal shorelines. This makes the campus landmark a natural habitat for the animal.
Wildlife Conservation student Taina McLeod says, “the Duck Pond is attached to a larger river system and there’s a good chance he just wandered in knowing there’s fish and other food.”
Appalachian Wildlife Management owner, Rudi Woykowski, says the otter most likely won’t stay long because of the lack of mates and because it will deplete its food resources.
While many are excited for the arrival of a new animal in the Duck Pond, Woykowski suggests that it might cause conflict between humans and wildlife. He says, “negative impacts with the otter are going to be a human fisherman getting injured or the otter getting hit by a car because of the proximity to the road.”
Moreover, the otter will impact the Duck Pond’s ecosystem because the animal will be at the top of the food chain.
McLeod says people walking around the Duck Pond probably won’t scare the otter away but bringing dogs to the pond might.
Woykowski warns not to feed or interact with otter because even though they are intelligent and playful creatures, they can quickly turn aggressive.