Otter Spotter monitors Brevard’s furry friends


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Courtesy of Discover Florida’s Oceans

When one thinks of the typical Floridian animals, the image of an otter isn’t always the first to spring to mind. With Brevard County’s close proximity to the Indian River Lagoon, however, otters might be closer than you think.

Discover Florida’s Oceans has a program called Otter Spotter that is actively researching and documenting otters in Brevard.

“For the Otter Spotter program, there are two different components to it,” said Susan Phillips, the development manager for HSRI. “One is our Citizens Science Project for citizens of Brevard. If they spot an otter, either alive or dead, they (can) go report it on our website (discoverfloridaoceans.com/otterspotter).”

From there, the data collected will be added to the program’s database, where information on local otters’ movements can be tracked and researched.

“If it is a dead animal, our (head) research scientist or one of her volunteers will go out, get it, and bring it back to our lab for necropsy,” Phillips said. “We look at stomach contents —  how the animal was hit if it was roadkill. We examine their teeth (and) we check for parasites. We’re looking for certain types of trends, to see how humans are affecting otters, and how we can learn more about that impact.”

On the website for Otter Spotter, there is a map with data points that represent otter sightings around Brevard County. There are a surprising number of points on the map. Phillips noted that otters are typically seen near freshwater areas such as under docks.

Phillips also was careful to note that people should not approach otters in the wild. Otters might carry diseases like any other wild animal and might be aggressive. Instead, onlookers should report the sighting to Otter Spotter, and avoid coming too close to the otter.

The Otter Spotter program is run under one of Discover Florida’s Oceans’ research programs, called the River Otter Ecology & Health Program.

For more information about Otter Spotter, go to discoverfloridasoceans.com/otterspotter. To report a sighting, fill out a form at jotform.com/mstolen/otterspotter.

“There is no one else in Florida studying otters right now,” Phillips added. “We want to bring that to the entire state of Florida.”

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