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  #11  
Old 01-14-2011, 06:23 PM
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whitefeather whitefeather is offline
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Angry Otters in the park

Why did the park biologists reintroduce them in the first place? How many times will this kind of thing keep happening over and over? They never seem to learn, you can't put things back they way they were 100 years ago because too much has changed, too many natural factors have been eliminated over time including mans presence as a resident, hunter, habitat change, etc.

As a side note on this subject, I have a mountain lion (cougar) living within a couple of hunderd yards of my property here in the woods of Indiana. It wasn't there ten years ago. But I've seen it and spoke to some power company linemen who were here clearing trees away from the power lines back in November. We were discussing hunting and fishing and I told them about it. They told me they had also seen them from time to time crossing the roads where they had been working. They told me the cougars had been reintroduced to cut down on the coyote population which is totally out of control. I have to bring all my animals inside at night because there are packs of 35 to 40 of them (some interbred with dogs that aren't afraid of man)every night coming across our road next to our property. They have already taken a number of pets off peoples front porches and fenced in yards. They were reintroduced years ago to cut down on the deer population by Indiana DNR who didn't consider their reproductive ability. When it was apparent the coyotes were not cutting down on the deer numbers and that they had made a big mistake, they (DNR) simply started denying they had anything to do with it. I knew that was a fabrication when I shot a coyote a couple of years ago that had a radio collar around its neck, that was identified with a serial number and DNR return information.

I sure hope that the number of fish in the park doesn't suffer from this otter presence. Does anyone have a internet link where I can go to research this more?

I sure would appreciate it. Though I live 6 to 7 hours away from GSMNP, I frequent it several times a year just for the fishing.

Thanks, Jim, for posting this information!

Whitefeather
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  #12  
Old 01-14-2011, 06:54 PM
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Okay, now I'm up to speed. I found a couple of things out there including this: http://www.flyfishingsmokymountains....almplr573.html

Reintroduced in the '80's, otters have been around for a while, especially in Cade's Cove. The ones people are seeing in high country may mean overcrowding is dispersing them to new territory. Who knows, maybe the brookies will benefit from the presence of otters if the otters thin out the rainbows somewhat, though I enjoy rainbows very much.

Maybe its already happened. Brookies seem to have made an outstanding comeback in a relatively short period of time in all areas of the park except a couple of spots that are still closed.

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  #13  
Old 01-14-2011, 07:10 PM
Crockett Crockett is offline
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Quote:
Originally Posted by fcfly View Post
I'm gonna weigh in on this one. I fish a bunch
in the Park's backcountry (mainly for Brookies).
I have seen a lot more Otter (or sign) and probably
fewer Brooks over the past few years.

I cringe whenever I hear someone bragging
about seeing a "cute little otter" while fishing in the Park.
Something you won't see on a trip to Abrams Cr.
are lunker sized (or any size for that matter) Brownies
that disappeared soon after the otter reintroduction.

Brownies are found elsewhere in the Park but anyone
who fished Abrams back in th' day knows it was a helluva
creek and not nearly as good today.

Of greater concern to me is the impact otters
can have on Southern Appalachian Brookies.The
bottom line is otters are about as common as cockroaches
and found pretty much anywhere there is running
water. Brookies are a treasure in both biological
and aesthetic terms.They are a spirited and relatively
rare resource whose habitat is small and dwindling.

At some point I think the park service is going
to have to prioritize what is more important:Brookies
or otters? They have done a pretty good
job on holding down wild hog numbers.
The same could be done with otters but I'm
not sure it would be politically correct and in a
way would be admitting the reintroduction was
not such a great idea. We'll see.

Freddy
Freddy I think you are right about the park service having to be faced with choosing between the specks and otters. Unfortunately once they make public that they will be reducing the otter population the public opinion will be on the side of the cute furry little otters and the park service will back down. After all the public never sees a speckled trout but they will see the cute little furry otters though so you can guess which one will be sacrificed by the government bureaucrats.
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  #14  
Old 01-14-2011, 07:58 PM
Jim Casada Jim Casada is offline
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Freddie--I'm almost tempted to say--FINALLY--there's someone who hears what I am saying. Your views and experiences are very similar to mine, but they seem largely to be falling on deaf or doubtful ears. You are exactly right on the browns in Abrams. There are possibly other partial explanations, such as drought, but I am perfectly confident otters were a significant factor.

The great irony here is that the Park restocked otters and they've spent hundreds of thousands, probably millions (much of it raised by volunteer efforts such as Troutfest) on bringing back the specks. Seems to me a Park at odds with itself, and the silence in official quarters is telling. Like you say, "we'll see."
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Old 01-14-2011, 08:12 PM
Jim Casada Jim Casada is offline
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Whitefeather--I don't know if you have read my book on fishing in the Park or not, but I include considerable information there on the otter restocking. It began on Abrams Creek well over two decades ago (interesting to note that the beginning point was where browns disappeared) and there were stockings on a number of other streams over the better part of two decades. The Park acknowledges 183 otters being released, but I suspect there were appreciably more.
One scary part of the equation is that otters have a long life expectancy, consume several pounds of food a day because of their exceptional metabolism, and are prolific breeders.
I wouldn't hold out much hope for the "eat the 'bows but not the specks" scenario. They'll eat what is available, are known to kill fish for fun at times (i. e., do not always consume what they kill), and once the bows are gone will turn to what is available. In fact, although this isn't scientific, my careful observation and that of others whom I consider pretty sound amateuir naturalists suggests that this sort of progression has been happening for some time. Red horse and hog suckers are scarce indeed compared to what they once were, and other than knottyheads I catch far, far fewer minnows than I used to. In fact, I can't remember when I last caught what we called silversides or creek minnows. They were once common as pig's tracks.
The Park likely has a protocol for management matters being at cross-purporses, but I'm afraid Adam may be right on who would win in an otters vs. specks showdown. The only hope there would be that fishermen have put tremendous energy and resources into the speck restoration, while I don't know of anything remotely comparable with otters.

Turning to coyotoes, I'm an avid hunter and write a lot about the subject, including quite a bit on predator hunting. Coyotes are a biological nightmare right now, and one which is getting worse. Here in S. C. where I now live recruitment to the deer population is way, way down, and coyotes are the top culprit.

I generally agree with you on humans making more messes than they do good when it comes to management, although I would point out two notable success stories--the comebacks of the white-tailed deer and the wild turkey. On the other hand, look at what reintroduced wolves are doing to elk populations out West. As odious as I consider otters, our otter/trout issue is nothing compared to what is happening to elk (and mule deer and whitetails) in Idaho, Montana, and other states.

Incidentally, I'll be writing about coyotes in the Tuck Reader week after next. My area of coverage for the coming week will be on horses in the Park, and I've got absolutely nothing good to say on that front. I know some of you who read the postings on this forum may be horse lovers or use them for fishing in the Park, but the damage they have done and continue to do cannot, in my view, be justified in any way. As for the damage itself, it is flat-out undeniable. There are trails, lots of them, which are devastated, and any designated horse camp stinks, is nasty, and generally is a turnoff to someone who wants to enjoy a pristine backcountry experience.
Jim Casada
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  #16  
Old 01-14-2011, 11:41 PM
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Hmm I wonder when the park is going to launch a study to determine weather or not the otters pose a serious threat to the trout population. Because you all know it's the federal government so before anything can be done first we must launch a study.....I'm just wondering how long that will take
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Old 01-15-2011, 12:11 PM
MBB MBB is offline
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I am certainly not a fan on otters in the Park, particularly when one of their most natural predators, man, is prevented from harvesting them.

Just curious, it seems to me that the fishing quality in the Park has decreased significantly over the last several years. Jim, I wonder what your thoughts and Mr. Mills thougts are on this topic.
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Old 01-15-2011, 12:56 PM
Jim Casada Jim Casada is offline
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MBB--Both of us would wholeheartedly agree. Part of that is unquestionably attributable to drought years, but I had noticed an appreciable downturn well before the dry years. Maybe I'm losing my touch, but after 60 years of fishing Park waters I don't think so. There are other factors, unquestionably. More angler pressure, possible impact of acidification, etc., but I strongly suspect, although I have no hard scientific evidence, that otters are at the top of the list.
Interestingly, most (though certainly not all) of the young outfitters and guides I talk to shrug off the whole matter of otters, whereas old-timers without exception are quite worried. Some of this can be explained by the undoubted tendency of humans to harken back to the "good old days" as they age, and those of us who are a bit long in the tooth and sparse in the hackle also have the advantage of a wider perspective in terms of years of fishing.
I personally think the next decade, and quite possibly the next five years, will tell us a great deal. I would love to hear Steve Moore, Matt Kulp, or whoever replaces Kim Delozier address this in detail. I'll guarantee there's been behind-the-scenes conversations and no small degree of concern, but if there's been anything for public consumption I've missed it.

Jim Casada
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P. S. You go straight to the heart of the issue when you note that the only natural predator of otters, man, can't deal with them in the Park. That immediately creates a highly artificial situation.
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Old 01-16-2011, 03:25 PM
calebB calebB is offline
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It seems as though the wildlife management of the park has not had the greatest foresight. The otters are not the first "unsuccessful" reintroduction into the park. The red wolf project comes to mind.

It seems to me that they should focus on managing current populations already in the park (ie. black bears and hogs) and stabilizing endangered and sensitive populations, rather than reintroducing species that may throw the CURRENT ecosystem out of balance.

Of course, different people have different views and see different priorities. It could be pointed out to us fishermen that trout aren't native to the smokies. But then what is "native"? How long were otters in the smokies to begin with?

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  #20  
Old 01-18-2011, 04:28 PM
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Weird.

I live in Souther Middle Tennessee and I and a hunting buddy saw an Otter on our land adjacent to the Elk River the other day. FIrst and only one we've ever seen.

He was well over 100 yards from the river up a small creek. Large animal, larger than one might think until you get up close.
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