Monday, April 18, 2016

Those Damn Otters...

Those Damn Otters ;  Always Eating Our Crawfish

River otters have been causing havoc  in our Crawfish  Traps

Otters are part of the same family of animals as weasels, badgers. They have streamlined bodies that allow them to be excellent swimmers. They weigh between 11-30 pounds with the males weighing more than the females and up to 4 feet in length. Otters are dark brown with paler brown bellies. They have small eyes and ears and long tails. Their ears and noses have adapted to keep water out with valves that close when they are underwater. Otters have very noticeable whiskers that are long and white. 

Otters  are carnivores and capable of eating up to 2.5  pounds of  meat a day. 
Fish and Crawfish  are their  favorite  foods

In the  Atchafalaya  Basin, a wild otter diets varies according to what time of year it is  and what  happens to be available in the region.  While Fish  would seem to top the list most of the time.. . And Otters are very capable of catching fish anytime. 

Guess  what is  most available  in the  Atchafalaya  Basin… from March to  July… CRAWFISH…

Carlton  LeGrange holding a crawfish trap that has  been run by Mr. Otter.  Note  how it is opened  so perfectly on the trap door end. 

Since  two flue  traps  are usually set a 30 to 45 degree angle and / are leaned  up against tree with the point of the trap between the flutes touching the bottom.  Thus, the otter has a clean shot  at the back of the trap. Making it easier  for Mr. Otter.

An otter can dive  and open a crawfish trap perfectly  everytime.  I mean It is  always a  perfect  opening like the one shown. They are  professional… ie., they do it  with  speed and accuracy… better than a human…L.O.L. 

Old time  fishermen  tell me  Otters  have been known  to 'camp out'  on a crawfish trap line.  This is pretty common in crawfish  ponds, (ie., Rice fields), but in  the  Atchafalaya  Swamp  with deep water pillow type traps it is amazing.  In our case they went  right down the trap line. They, ( I assume  there  was a whole family of them)  ran hundreds of traps… I mean they did not miss one, it was uncanny.  They followed  every twist and turn  of the trap line, perfect.  

The direct loss of  the crawfish ,  the bait expense and the wasted time to reset the traps  can add up to hundreds of dollars in damages. 

Because of their status as “furbearers,” there are certain guidelines that  must be followed when dealing with these animals.  You can only take them legally in trapping  season  and  you must buy a $25 trapping license if you plan to sell the hides of the animals you catch. Trapping season runs November until March 31 each year.  If you have a problem in April, you can only live trap them legally.

Otters are much more difficult to trap than  mink, raccoon and nutria. Otters can dive as far down as 55 feet! They can also swim a 1/4 mile with only 1 breath and can stay underwater for 2 minutes.
I have been told they are only two immediate solutions to otters  running your traps. One solution is to sew a open end nylon webbing (similar to frog net)  into trap opening at the dumping  end of the crawfish trap . (Must be done during trapping season).  That way the otter swims through the mesh webbing, gets inside  the trap  and gets the crawfish  and then is unable to get back through the nylon mesh, and thus drowns.

Another , less  lethal  solution, is to lace a straight wire , about 1/8” dia. Over & under through the ¾ mesh wire ie.,  the trap door  opening.  This solution  takes a  little extra time  running the trap, but the otter usually cannot pull wire through.

Fortunately, Otters running your crawfish traps in the Atchafalaya  Swamp, ie.,   in deep water traps,  is typically an early spring  kinda thing.  The longer into season and  when you start catching several pounds of crawfish per trap, they usually move on. 

It’s a  good thing, because I was thinking , I  just might have to  do some outlawing wild Otter… just kidding !  

Like the  U.S. Marines, Savvy  Cajun Craw-fishermen  learn to Adapt, Improvise, and Overcome !

Preserve the  Heritage !