North American River Otter....the River Clown!
No other animal in nature has this fellows human like personality or senses. I have often wondered why there are not more of them on the rivers. They are smart. They have command of sight, smell and hearing that gives them the ability to size up danger like no other animal. His worst enemy in the past has been his fur. Man made fibers have literally saved his skin!
He began his come back in northern Emmet County's Pleasantview Swamp in the late 1980's. My chance meetings with the otter have been cute, entertaining but brief. You can never trick or get near him. He knows what a safe distance is and will confront you with honorable courage before he disappears. You will usually see them in pairs ... they will look at you, moving their head around like it's checking out what kind of fishing rod you're using and with a parting bark like a small puppy ... gone.
Otters may present themselves like they are standing in waste deep water, with their hands on their hips, giving them an appearance of ... they are also fly fishing. They look like a Toby Mug of an old English man with a bushy mustache ... so human like you almost want to ask "Catch Anything?"
Their diet consists of frogs, clams, crayfish and of course trout. They have some of mans bad habits of catching more fish than they can eat and playing with the left overs ... just short of a food fight. I am surprised, with their entertaining talents, Hollywood hasn't given them their own reality show! The River Otter has my vote for an Emmy.
Black Bears....Michigan's largest predator.
Nothing stimulates the heart rate more...not even love ... than a chance meeting with a Black Bear. Just a bear print on a sandy flat of the river can cause some concern. A bear is 180 to 220 pounds as a young adult and stands 6 feet tall . Their teeth, claws and strength are formidable. They like to hang around cool cedar swamps along the river in the heat of the day. Scared yet ? Well don't be. If you understand their mind set you can cherish the moment.
You need to be concerned about any encounter with a Black Bear, however there are 2 types of encounters in which you should be most concerned. A mother and her cubs , and an old rogue bear. What you are most likely to encounter are young adult black bears which pose mild concern, but will get that heart pounding. The young adults are like teenagers, they are on the move looking for their own territory and not that smart. If they see you they are likely to flee the area fast. Always make noise so they know you are there.
If you come upon a mother bear with her cubs, she will get defensive and on edge. She lingers with them for their protection as the clubs feel no danger from you at all. Cubs are curious, wander around Mom and can be problematic.
If you are confronted face to face with a bear that doesn't run ...you have a problem. If it is a mother she will thrash and click her teeth that sounds like a person snapping their fingers. That is her warning to you. You should move away, increase the distance from her and the cubs. Do not, I repeat, do not take one step towards her. A mother bear can tell if you move one inch closer, which could trigger an attack. Back track slowly, keep your front side towards her if she is looking at you. When she retreats out of sight make noise so she knows where you are.
The old rogue Black Bear is the most dangerous. Unfortunately they are usually 4 to 5 hundred pounds. With old age they seem to lose their fear of man. If this bear sees you and wants to predate on you, he will size you up. If he makes any move towards you without some sort of warning, like the clicking of teeth or thrashing, he's coming. Get ready to fight. Wave your arm, scream, throw things at the bear, get as big as you can, make as much noise as you can. If he does give you a warning signal to defend his space, increase the distance between you and the bear, do not turn your back to the bear. Yell, bark like dog ... make noise. If it should come to contact, yell and fight with what ever is available. Report this bear to the MDNR .... please!
I have never had a precarious meeting with a mother bear and her cubs, or a rogue bear. My experience has always been , the bear will flee faster than I can blink. I fish alone often and quietly wading in the river gets me close to animals to they're dismay.
The mink shares the same love of trout fishing as we do. This member of the weasel family will slink along the logs and tall grass on the banks of the river. He is a bold mammal about the size of a grey squirrel. Minks are very curious and aggressive. He appears very dark due to his musk and wet fur. His foot prints will fit on a dime. Their tracks are thin, long with obvious claw impressions. Easy to identify in the sand and mud flats along the river. The mink weighs just over a pound, but his type "A" personality gives him little fear of anything...pound for pound he is one tough guy. You will not hear him, he is all stealth. You can have fun with him if you spot him before he spots you. Remain motionless, make a chirping sound like a squirrel or chipmunk, just like you did when you were a child...if you play him right he will end up in your lap...I mean literally in your lap ! The mink will move around you trying to locate the sound. The key here is ...he thinks it is a Muskrat, his favorite quarry. It is a great photo opportunity, but be careful he is a wild animal ...and your fingers look like a small trout...ouch...!
Sweet Is The Lore That Nature Brings