Tuesday, June 11, 2013

LOOKING FOR OTTERS -- FOUND ONLY BEAVERS

It rained very hard yesterday and last night and the river showed it.  Brown would be the color of the day.  I wanted to focus on finding otters just one more time up here on the Holston.  I came up one day last week and ran for 5 hours in the best habitat the river offers for otter and beaver - they share the same habitat.  I found none.  This morning was perfect to give it another go.  If there were any otters left here I would surely find them.  
I pulled into my favorite spot on the river to just sit and watch the wild things.  The usual black crowned night heron was standing on the beaver dam just like he always does, and he flew as soon as the nose of the Gheenoe became visible.. I got a picture of him but it was blurred due to camera shake.  Gotta be fast to catch that guy.  I'll get im eventually.
This entry has very many beaver images.  It's not often that beaver make themselves available to the human eye.  When they do, one should take advantage of the invitation.  It could be years before opportunities like this occur again.  As I mentioned, there are a lot of pictures.  Look at what you want and just skip the rest.  They are precious shots to me as I know what the future holds for the beaver.  I'm afraid the otter has paid the price up here already.  He is a prime target as his fur carries a higher bounty on it.  Disgusting!.  The two young beavers were playing in the tall grass and scrambled down the bank and into the water.  They surprised me and were too fast for me to get a picture.  I did get them in the water though.

Notice that one is lighter color than the other.  They are sleek and fast, unlike adults.

The lighter colored one dove and emerged facing the opposite direction, swimming upstream and away from his sibling who continued downstream.  It is the downstream beaver I will photograph for this segment.  Again - seeing these fantastic animals this close is truly a privilege.  That's why so many images.


He turned to the shore and started to get out of the water.  Perfect!  I was using the electric motor and he didn't have the slightest idea I was there.  To him the Gheenoe was just a floating piece of wood.  An otter would see things differently.


He was eating grass.  One blade of grass at a time was fed into his mouth by hand.  The boat was drifting by and I had to maneuver around and shoot pictures at the same time.  I couldn't get a good shot of him eating.  Small boats are susceptible to the slightest current or wind.  It's the price one must pay for the advantage of searching for critters by water.  He was just minding his own business, bothering nothing.  Soon, he slid back into the water and was on his way again.  I left him go his way in peace..
I headed upstream once again and didn't get too far when an enormous beaver appeared swimming down the shoreline.  He, or she, was in the immediate area where I saw the baby beavers a week ago.  I bet this is a parent.


Beavers are so well adapted to their habitat.  They cruise effortlessly and can dive and stay under water for up to seven minutes.  I wish I could watch one swim while submerged.



This is very exciting!  Beavers are not usually this accessible for viewing.  These guys are a product of perfect habitat, an abundance of food and minimal human intrusion.
So far....
Suddenly the light was reflected off the surface in such a way that unnatural colors were created.  The beaver swam right into it.





This beaver, like the previous one, was heading for shore.  What luck!  I can't believe I have the good fortune of running into these situations all the time.  Once in a great while is understandable, but it's becoming routine for me.


I knew he was a large beaver but I had no idea just how big he really was.  Wow!


This beaver was also nibbling on grass.  I think they can identify what grass they like by sight as he made an immediate left turn to this embankment and instantly went to a specific clump of grass.  Pretty neat!




He was ready to get back into the water.



This has been a real treat.  The really unique thing is that I can keep up with him because I'm in a boat.  That's one thing someone can not do if using a blind.



He disappeared behind some old wooden snags and didn't come out the other side.  Then I heard what sounded like a wood chisel cutting into wood.  Ka chunk - ka chunk sounds were audible.  He was chipping off chunks of wood.  I always envisioned a beaver scraping the bark off the wood - not chiseling it off.  This is a learning experience for me.  Who'd a thunk they used their teeth like a chisel?  Finally he swam out from behind the wood and was gone.  I didn't follow.
I floated on over to see what he was chiseling on.  Look at the base of that tree.  Wow!
I had one more place to look for otters.  Upstream from "Beaver Island", my name, and around a curve would be the extent of the good beaver/otter habitat.  If they aren't there, then they aren't.  A wood duck stood on one leg in a tiny cove along the island.
The sunlight striking the water, again, created strange colored reflections.  Very different!


He flew and I missed the picture.  What else is new?  I checked upriver and there was no otter sign at all.  It is what I suspected.  The trappers have cleaned them out to the otter.  You can find pictures of the little fellows that I took last fall here on the blog.  They have been decimated during the Winter trapping season.  That proves out that the trapping regulations are faulty and trapping should be suspended for otters until, at least, population surveys are completed.  I don't understand how regulations can be levied without first evaluating the animal, habitat and population on the river.  The unbelievable part of the regulation is that there is no limit on "harvesting."  Trappers can take as many as they can.  Well - they did a good job.  They got em all.  They're my otters too.  They belong to the citizens of this state.. No damn trapper owns them.  Shame on whoever puts a bounty on their furs.  Trapping is an outdated practice and a shameful, cowardly way to kill an animal.  It has no place in these modern times.  I guess humans have not progressed as far as suspected.  Otters have a higher bounty levied upon them than do beavers.  When they're gone, and they are, the focus will be on the beavers and it will be their turn to feel the bite of the trap.   Don't get me started.  I'll address trapping in a later entry.
Notice the little clump of green leavers in the water near the shoreline.  It is moving upstream against the current.  A muskrat has a stem in his mouth and is swimming toward his burrow.  He probably is lining his den.
The clump of leaves suddenly disappeared with a plop as the muskrat pulled them quickly beneath the water and disappeared into his den.  The center hole below is his home.

I got back to the boat ramp and loaded the boat.  I slipped off the trailer tongue while trying to center the boat on the bunks and fell sideways into the water.  What luck!  I only got soaked to the waist as the depth was three feet.  I'm really happy I had the cell phone in a bag on the boat.  Whew!

That's it for this outing.  I may take the dogs to the old state park sixty mile West of here in the morning.  I need to get them exercise and that's the only place I know to take them.  I'll see how I feel in the morning.  Hope you liked the beavers and thanks for looking in.