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New Wildlife Species Discovered at Clear Creek Natural Heritage Center: The Fascinating River Otter

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The Clear Creek Natural Heritage Center has confirmed the presence of river otters within its boundaries. Sightings of these elusive creatures have long intrigued staff and visitors alike, as their identity often remained uncertain—beaver, otter, or nutria? That mystery was solved two months ago when Dan, a staff member, captured images of a family of otters on a game cam set up on the new property. Additionally, a river otter was spotted swimming toward what could potentially be a den in a log jam at the Confluence during a water quality monitoring session.

To further study these fascinating creatures, a student from the University of North Texas (UNT) set up two game cams—one aimed at the suspected den and another by a slide. The Clear Creek Natural Heritage Center is working on obtaining access to the photos and reports captured by these cameras.

River otters have an expected lifespan of up to 12 years. Females typically give birth to litters of pups, averaging two to three pups per litter. However, this number can vary, with some litters having as few as one pup and others as many as six. River otters exhibit an interesting reproductive feature where females can delay implantation for up to 11 months, followed by a gestation period of 60 days.

The pups are born blind and toothless, relying heavily on their mothers for care. They are weaned at around three months of age and become independent within six to twelve months. River otters reach sexual maturity at two to three years old, contributing to the growth of their population.

While river otters are undeniably adorable, they also possess a fierce side. Equipped with strong jaws and sharp teeth, these animals are true omnivores. They dominate in aquatic environments but become more vulnerable on land, where they may fall prey to coyotes, bobcats, and wild dogs. Interestingly, while river otters can be preyed upon by alligators, they have been known to occasionally turn the tables and prey on alligators themselves.

The discovery of river otters at the Clear Creek Natural Heritage Center offers visitors an opportunity to observe and learn about these captivating animals in their natural habitat. Their presence enriches the local ecosystem and adds another layer of intrigue to the diverse wildlife found at the center.

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