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Tractor show coming to Robbers Cave on June 16, and tidbits about river otters

June 7, 2012

Outdoor columnist George Midgley displays his small bass he caught on a fishing trip with Chuck Restine last week. He said the crankbait was bigger than the fish, and that he caught it in the mouth. Photo by Chuck Restine

If you are looking for something to do on June 16, you should head up to Robbers Cave State Park north of Wilburton between 9 a.m. and 4 p.m. for the Antique Tractor and Implement Show. Registration is from 7 to 9 a.m. A people's choice award will be given to the categories of tractor, implement and miscellaneous.
There will be several family activities including an antique hay bailing demonstration, a horseshoe tournament, Dutch oven cooking demonstrations, old fashion “Tom Walker” stilts and stick and hoop rolling games. It will be fun for all, so plan to attend.
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Last summer, I saw a river otter while fishing in Wister Lake, and decided to do a little research on the critter. Here is what I found out about the little weasel.
You might say that the river otter (Lutra canadensis) “slides” through life. One of the more lively wildlife species, river otters play frequently, diving for objects, socializing, swimming, and, yes, sliding on their stomachs across ice or mud. River otters are sleek, dark brown mammals with a tan or golden blaze on the face and chest.
Their narrow bodies can be longer than four feet, much of which is tail length, and weigh 15 to 20 pounds. However, they stand less than a foot at the shoulders. Females are slightly smaller than males. They prefer seclusion, so they are often alone, and found far from civilization. It has been said that one otter could easily have a 20-mile range all to itself, though it will find and socialize with other otters.
Otters rely very little on fat stores for warmth, as their fur will sufficiently accomplish the task. Harsh weather poses little threat to this hardy member of the weasel family. Here in our part of the state, there is no need to worry about a harsh winters, however, those harsh summers can be rough!
There is little threat of predation for river otter, either, making it easy for them to enjoy their sliding and diving sessions. They are big enough that few predators will attempt an attack, though bobcats, coyotes and some others will occasionally be able to catch one.
The river otter is a predator, actually, of fish, frogs, turtles, crayfish and even the occasional egg of a ground-nesting bird. Other supplements find a way into the otter’s diet, from animals to insects to vegetation, but they rely heavily on frequent catches of fish. They will eat several species fish, such as carp and sunfish, but smaller fish make the easiest meals.
During the spring, otters travel and find mates. They use a wide vocabulary of sounds to communicate with each other. After almost a year, females give birth to two or three offspring, which are born helpless, usually in the seclusion of another animal’s abandoned den. After learning to swim, the young begin learning to hunt their own food, and eventually begin to travel. At two years old, the young otters will breed their own litters. A river otter can live 15 to 20 years.
If you spend enough time near a river or pond, you may spot a river otter enjoying a day of diving, fishing or sliding. However, you may not see the otter in the same place again for a while, as his travels take him on frequent journeys.
Have a great week!
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Email questions or comments to gmidgley_golf@yahoo.com.

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