Otters were documented in downtown Milwaukee for the first time this winter, continuing a trend already studied in other urban areas around the world where local waterway habitats have been restored.
Better water quality and habitat brings more crayfish, frogs and fish — healthy food for otters and other creatures.
The film below shows a group of three otters near the Milwaukee Institute of Art and Design:
Otters seen wandering around by the Milwaukee River pic.twitter.com/7z2CsWKi2n— WISN 12 NEWS (@WISN12News) February 23, 2019
Wildlife experts don’t know yet if this is a family moving in, or three bachelors passing through. But if they do stay, we can expect them to behave a little differently than the ones you may have seen in the wild or watched on televised nature shows.
In Chicago, for example, otters have changed their eating habits. As an “apex” predator–at the top of the food chain–otters can catch and eat a wide variety of foods. But in the wild they usually have some competition. In urban areas like Chicago, and presumably Milwaukee, they face no competition and have quite a buffet choice of foods. And they’ll even eat road kill–because they can.
a sign of hope
For me, though, the possibility that long-gone residents may return to downtown Milwaukee is a wonderful sign of hope. We can make urban areas more hospitable to a wider variety of creatures.
Last month, for example, the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel reported that beavers have returned downtown after an absence of 180 years. And peregrine falcons have lived and raised families downtown since being re-introduced in the late 1980s.
As otters and other wild creatures return to cleaned-up urban areas, people not only get the benefit of seeing them, but how they think about their cities can also change in positive ways. And the visual signs of hope can spur them to be more protective of their local environment. It’s another example of the positive interaction between nature and the human spirit.
Photo: River otter. Source: Image by Huskyherz on Pixabay.
This post belongs in the gold part of the singing wilderness spiritual road map, as efforts to restore habitat relate not only to knowledge and truth, but also to justice.