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Sunday Science: Meet the River Otters - WCAX.COM Local Vermont News, Weather and Sports-

Sunday Science: Meet the River Otters

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TUPPER LAKE, N.Y. -

In the mid-90s river otters were threatened in New York, but the Adirondacks have always had a healthy population because they have the perfect habitat there.

These cute critters are making a splash at the Wild Center in Tupper Lake. They're river otters. And these two boys are named Louie and Remy.

"They have really long bodies and short legs, and that makes them really maneuverable in the water," says Leah Valerio with the Wild Center. "But they also do spend quite a bit of time on land, which most people don't realize. They spend all their time sleeping on land, which can be up to twelve hours a day. And their home ranges can be really wide, sometimes 30 miles wide, so they can go from one body of water to another."

Reporter: "And they seem pretty playful too."

Valerio: "Absolutely. That's the one word people always use to describe the otters is playful. Everything they do looks like play. And they always look like they're having fun."

But having fun takes some effort from the staff too to make sure the otters aren't bored.

"They're very smart animals, just like a dog or a cat at home," she says. "We spend a lot of time here not just feeding and doing daily care, but also enriching them, giving them toys, things to work out some of their excess energy. We'll build snowmen in here full of food that they have to work to get it out of, so we do all kinds of stuff with them that is not only fun but it keeps them healthy."

She says the healthy water in the Adirondacks is the perfect habitat for these river otters, and you can look for their tracks and dens along bodies of water.

Valerio: "If you see a lot of open freshwater mussel shells, it's probably one of these guys that are having a snack."

Reporter: "They like to eat mussels, they like to eat --?"

Valerio: "Fish, crayfish, they've even been known to eat small rodents or birds if they can catch them. But the majority of their diet comes from the water that they're hanging out in."

She says even on days where it's 30 degrees below and we're huddled indoors, these otters are in and out of the water and don't feel the effects of that cold.

"They have a double coat. And the fur on the outside is a stiffer guard hair. And underneath that is a really soft, dense underlayer. And their fur is so dense that their skin is almost not getting wet underneath it," she says.

Caretakers say they can pick out each of their four otters based on their personality quirks.

"Louie, the other male that's in here right now -- that's Louie right here -- he really loves food. So he spends all his time looking for food. On the grounds, in the rocks, he checks the door to see if we're back with food, so they definitely have personalities," she says.

And she says these otters with attitudes are the stars of the show here at the nature center.

"People just stand here for hours watching them and smiling," she says. "I think they bring joy to anyone who comes and watches them."

And happening Sunday, March 30 at the Wild Center, they're celebrating the otters' birthdays! That means crafts, cake and demos for the kids and presents and a special ice "cake" for the otters.

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