provided to The Santiva Chronicle
“North American River Otters have high metabolisms meaning they must feed frequently,” says CROW Wildlife Rehabilitation Manager Breanna Frankel. “The two young otters were admitted in early March and have finally reached the stage where they must begin live prey training. In the wild, their mothers teach them the necessary skills to survive including how to hunt. Oftentimes, otter pups stay with their mom for about a year to fully develop their hunting and foraging skills. Since we can’t teach them in the same way their wild mother would, we utilize live prey training to finely tune their hunting skills giving them a better chance of survival once released.”
Nonnative, freshwater fish such as Mayan cichlids are the preferred fish for rehabilitation staff to offer the otters. Removing invasive fish from our waterways helps to preserve native species and local ecosystems while also providing food for the otters. CROW is in need of a dedicated handful of volunteers to take on this task until the end of July when the otters will be ready for release. According to rehab staff, 15-20 live fish are needed per day. In order to facilitate successful live prey training, the fish must be alive when dropped off at the clinic and drop offs must be corrdinated with CROW’s rehabilitation manager to ensure a surplus of fish aren’t dropped off on the same day.
All Florida freshwater fishing regulations must be followed, including being a licensed angler. Ideal drop off times for live fish would be between the hours of 7 and 11 a.m. Free admission to the Visitor Education Center will be offered to those who drop off fish where they can view a live stream feed of the otters receiving the fish for training. If you are interested in helping provide fish for the otters, send an email to Frankel at firstname.lastname@example.org for more details and coordination.