On a crisp, cool afternoon last month, wildlife photographer Robert Sendlein was “shooting” waterfowl at the Nature Conservancy’s St. John’s Pond in Oyster Bay when he noticed something surface in the middle of the pond. Pivoting his camera to the spot, he proceeded to snap a dozen photos of a river otter dining on sushi. Norm Soule of the Cold Spring Harbor Fish Hatchery was able to identify the sushi as golden shiner, a common freshwater fish inhabiting that pond.
Last winter, the Long Island River Otter Project identified St. John’s Pond as one of 18 freshwater ponds and streams on Long Island inhabited by otters. River otters will also hunt for their favorite foods—fish and crab—in our tidal creeks and estuaries.
Sendlein’s photos are the only known photographs of wild otters on Long Island. Survey work will continue this winter. Volunteers took advantage of the recent snow cover to survey ponds and creeks for otter tracks. If you would like to help out with the Long Island River Otter Project, please contact Mike Bottini at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Mike Bottini is a naturalist and author of “The Southampton Press Trail Guide to the South Fork,” “Exploring East End Waters: A Natural History and Paddling Guide,” and “The Walking Dunes: East Hampton’s Hidden Treasure.” Check www.peconic.org for Mike’s field naturalist classes.