Oak Harbor marina otters won’t be trapped, just annoyed

The cute but stinky and amorous otters that leave unsightly deposits on the docks at Oak Harbor Marina are safe from traps, but staff members are doing their best to annoy the creatures.

Harbormaster Chris Sublet made waves earlier this year when he said the marina may try to get rid of the river otters that poop on the docks, as well as several species of birds that dive-bomb the area.

Some animal advocates were upset at the idea that the otters might be harmed or moved elsewhere.

On Wednesday, Sublet told city council members that the marina is working with USDA Wildlife Services to control the pesky animals, but promises that the otters won’t be trapped.

Years ago, the federal agents trapped otters at the marina and relocated them to Mexico, but that program is over, according to a USDA official.

Instead of trapping, Sublet said the plan is to haze the otters, which basically means to annoy them enough that they stay away.

“We’re trying to make it as uncomfortable as possible for the otters,” he said.

Sublet said otters are very sensitive to odors. He said he’s researching using pungent products to keep them away; that may mean sprinkling or spraying cayenne pepper, chlorine, Listerine or a commercial product on the docks.

Sublet said he’s also trying to educate boaters about ways to otter-proof their boats.

“What we’ve found is that otters, believe it or not, are pretty lazy,” he said. “They don’t want to work to get somewhere.”

The otters live on the rocky shoreline surrounding the marina and hang out on the docks while hunting fish or to enjoy the sun, according to Sublet.

Oak Harbor Councilwoman Beth Munns said she is concerned about the possible danger posed by the otters.

Sublet noted that a marina employee was recently attacked by one of the animals. The man came upon a baby otter on a dock and the mother came out of the water to protect her pup.

The mother otter hissed and approached the man, but didn’t bite.

Councilman Rick Almberg suggested that a raft be floated near the marina to give the otters a place of their own, but then he wondered if it would became an otter love nest.

Sublet said a private raft may be a bad idea, noting that a number of people who have recently witnessed otters breeding at the marina and on the beach.


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