Though it was apparently killed while trying to cross a street, an otherwise healthy male otter was recently found on Staten Island, and animal conservationists say that’s good news for the borough. NY1’s Amanda Farniacci filed the following report.
Paul Bonner was driving down South Avenue earlier this week when he noticed something on the road and pulled over.
When he got out of his car, he says he knew the animal in the middle of the busy roadway was an otter.
“They're astonished. They hear otter, ‘huh? What?’ If you say raccoon, nobody listens,” says Bonner.
Bonner moved the animal to the side of the road and got in touch with the Staten Island Zoo, which sent a team to investigate.
It turns out that Bonner was right: the 25-pound male animal was a North American River Otter, an animal the state Department of Environmental Conservation says it has never before found on Staten Island, except for the two that live at the zoo.
“You don't find those animals here ever. The otter populations have declined considerably in the 1900s, and they started a reintroduction program in western New York and central New York, but nothing like that down this far south,” says Peter Laline, curator of the Staten Island Zoo.
Bonner says he believes the otter lived in the waters behind a fence and was killed while trying to cross the street.
Zoo officials seem to believe that theory as well, though they won't know for sure until they do more tests.
“Possible the animal's been here for quite some time. It was a very large male in very good health. It really is a bittersweet find. The animal was in great health and unfortunately was struck by a car, but at the same time now we know that these animals can thrive here on Staten Island,” says Laline.
Otters can't live in polluted waters, and they don't mate well in captivity, so that an otter was found on Staten Island at all is good news because it means the borough's ecological system is flourishing.