Thursday, May 16, 2013

River otters on the Funny River, Alaska

This posting has been a LONG time coming. I finally got my hands on the video clips from the underwater video recording system that I've been waiting for for 10 months :) Better late than never! And what a nice way to remember my truly amazing summer in Alaska, than to post a year later.

On May 27th, 2012 I took a long flight to Anchorage, and then a short one to the Kenai Peninsula. I won't go into all the details of my work and life up there, but please visit my Alaska entries to catch up.

If you don't want to read through all 35ish entries, you should at least check out my River otter caught on underwater camera entry, which will greatly fill you in on what I'm about to share.

I will briefly set it up:

I was hired through the Student Conservation Association (SCA) to work in the Kenai Fish and Wildlife Field Office for 3 months during summer 2012. I was considered a volunteer for the USFWS, but the SCA funded my travel, and I was provided a place to live for free. Which was a beautiful cabin on the Kenai National Wildlife Refuge... #winning. But I worked 40 hours a week and did everything a traditional seasonal tech would do.

One of my tasks as a Fisheries Technician last summer, was to monitor a fish weir location on the Funny River. We had this weir set up, so that fish were funneled through a central spot in the river, and were forced in front of a video camera. This way we could see who, what, and when certain species were migrating.

I am a mammal-lover firstly, probably because I am one. I DO like fish now, especially the mighty Chinooks. But on this certain day, I was checking recorded video at the weir by myself. In our "office away from office", a weather port with a computer, I sat counting fish and reviewing video from days before. I finished what I was doing, and clicked back to the "live feed" just in time to see a river otter (Lontra canadensis) zip past the camera! My jaw dropped and I started muttering under my breath a mantra of "ohmigodohmigodohmigodohmigod" over and over. And back zipped the otter upstream! I was torn between sitting there and watching this otter on the screen -LIVE- or running 300 yards upstream to the weir to try and watch it with my eye balls! Curiosity won, and I ran. Apparently not fast enough though, because there was no otter to be seen.

This is my home-video I made...please note: I am NOT a videographer.

So, I gave up the hunt and went back to the Weatherport in hopes of watching the otter on the video. He left though, and just had this great memory left. But I remembered that the video was RECORDING! There was a digital copy of the otter!
I begged and pleaded with my boss to let me have the clips, and he very graciously agreed. I bought a jump drive for him to put them on, and I just got it in the mail. Better late than never, thanks Ken!

A couple of things to keep in mind while watching:
-This camera is very similar to a traditional camera trap. You can't buy this set up though in a store- you should consider it a "home brew" set up. The camera is a motion-sensing security camera you might hang from your garage.
-The box is a welded box with glass panels.
-The camera is submerged in filtered water, and stream water is allowed to pass through the channel, which from glass panel to the white wall in the back is ~6-7" wide. Just wide enough for large salmon get through.
-The sandbag is blocking a gap at the bottom so no fish can sneak through unnoticed by the camera.
-Watch as the otter periodically goes up for air!
-A few times you can see him kick off the glass, which gives a great view of his cool feet.
Enjoy the antics of the river otter (which by the way, is the same species we have in New York!)...

Watching this video brings me right back to my summer on the Kenai Peninsula, and makes me very wistful to be back in my Alaskan home away from home...


  1. Wow, what a beautiful place to work! And such a cool 'bonus' experience with the otter! Such an adorable curious little fella.

  2. River otters! Always curious and playful.


Thank you for reading and wishing to leave a comment! Unfortunately, due to a high number of spam comments being left under the "Anonymous" heading, I had to disable that feature. You may still leave a comment with a Gmail account, or under the OpenID option! I welcome comments, suggestions, stories, and tall tales!