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Arb Notes: Otter Encounter

During the annual frog and toad survey that happened in Week 4, we were very fortunate to see and hear at least one River Otter (Lontra canadensis) in the retention pond near the Lower Arb entrance. 

For the frog and toad survey, we start around sunset and go on a three-hour walk that covers most of the ponds and creeks in the Lower and Upper Arb, making a dozen stops at designated spots to listen for frog and toad activities. Of course, frogs and toads are not the only fascinating observations that we may have on one of these nighttime adventures. Barred Owls (Strix varia), Coyotes (Canis latrans), American Woodcocks (Scolopax minor) and Wilson’s Snipes (Gallinago delicata) have all been spotted or heard during previous walks, not to mention the river otter.

It was around 9 p.m. when we reached the retention pond. A dark and moonless night had enveloped us, save for the not-so-distant glow emitted by the Libe from across the road and Lyman Lakes. We were quietly listening for frogs and toads when a huffing-puffing sound, together with an urgent shuffling of shrubs, caught our attention. More huffing, more shuffling -— it came in our direction. Then, a splash of something entering the water — that certainly ruled out the possibility of a deer. The dim flashlights searched across the black water, shimmering on the ripples agitated by this sleek creature, as we held our breaths, not knowing when the sounds died down or where the otter had headed. 

(FYI: There’s one more frog and toad survey next Wednesday! Watch for campus announcements!)

Kestrel Liu ’23, for the Cole Student Naturalists

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