Monday, April 18, 2016
Those Damn Otters...
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…
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 !