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Oak Harbor Marina targets messy otters, birds

By JESSIE STENSLAND
Whidbey News-Times Co-editor
February 20, 2013 · 8:20 AM
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A river otter walks across a dock at the Oak Harbor Marina last Thursday. Officials at the marina are looking at a contract to deal with the otters and birds which leave behind droppings. / Jessie Stensland / Whidbey News-Times

A river otter, sleek and graceful, scampered across a dock at the Oak Harbor Marina on a Thursday afternoon before gliding back into the water.

A half-dozen of the intelligent, playful creatures make the marina home. Unfortunately, the otters’ bathroom habits put them on a list of four animals marina management wants to remove from the area.

“It hasn’t been a problem for me, but the otters make a mess for some people,” said Richard Littke, one of the few boat owners to visit the marina on the quiet day. “They seem to like the covered areas.”

Chris Sublet, the Oak Harbor harbormaster, said he is hoping to contract with the U.S. Department of Agriculture Wildlife Services for help dealing with the otters, as well as seagulls, pigeons and turnstones.

The problem, he said, is the poop.

The marina workers hose off the docks six days a week to remove the unsightly splotches of white, brown and green. It’s a lot of man-hours and a lot of water, he said.

“The otters’ messes are the worst,” he said. “They are as big as dog poop. Really stinky, like rotten fish.”

Sublet said creatures cause perennial problems at the marinas; they’ve dealt with them in different ways over the years, but they keep returning. As many as 75 seagulls congregate at F dock at night, leaving behind a thick mess in the morning.

The pigeons roost in the covered moorage and create similar piles, he said.

The marina workers, however, are limited in what they can do because otters, seagulls and turnstones are federally protected species.

Sublet said the workers set up sprinklers at the edge of the docks to try to annoy the seagulls, but with limited success.

Which is where the USDA Wildlife Services come in.

Sublet said the agency has authority to trap and remove the otters, haze the seagulls and turnstones and shoot the pigeons, which aren’t protected by law.

The purpose of hazing, Sublet said, is to annoy the birds so they’ll go elsewhere. It could be as simple as yelling and clapping, he said, to stringing up dead seagulls.

“They don’t like to see their own kind dead,” he said.

The plan, Sublet said, is to enter into a one-year contract with the agency for $6,000. He said that will buy an average of four hours a week of expert animal displacement.

 


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