24 July, 1998

Myrtle Brijbasi

TEA/Alaska - 98

Journal Entry 15 - July 24, 1998

Alaska SeaLife Center, Ak

As we looked into the pool this morning we noticed that there were no fish in the pool, and that there was blood on the edge of the pool. Assumption? fish caught and eaten. The day is a bright sunny day and the otters are showing signs of playfulness. Cabin is having a lot of fun with the blankets. He climbed up into the tote that has the clean dry blankets and pulls them out one by one. Obviously the tote became unbalanced so the entire load of blankets fell on him. Though he scampered away at first, he returned to pull out the blankets one by one. Today Susanne and Dr. Ben-David are feeding the otters while Noa and Olav clean the kennels, dens and outdoor lab. Elisa and I will observe and record behaviors.

Naked is sedated to administer some medication -zantac. This is to trace any internal bleeding since his blood count is rising slowly. At the last bleeding, Dr. Ben-David had expected a higher blood count.

The otters are exhibiting extensive multi-grooming, and much playful behaviors.

There were no aggressive behaviors.

Later that afternoon, a fishing trip out on Resurrection Bay was planned. It was a fun trip even though a lot of fish were not caught. The water was somewhat "choppy" going and coming, and Dr. Ben-David maneuvered the boat most skillfully. She was certainly in her element since this is one of the activities she enjoys immensely. Some rock fish were caught for study at the SeaLife Center, and several gravid ones that were caught were released back into the bay. A ling cod was caught and immediately released back into the water, but the graylings were kept and brought back for the otters. My job was to aerate the water in the tote that had the fish which were caught and try as hard as possible to maintain the temperature similar to that of the bay.

We returned to the center earlier than planned because we wanted to keep the fish alive. The fish were placed in the pool with the otters for them to have a feast, and at the same time to encourage diving and foraging success.

We also checked the fish tanks holding the salmon. They did not eat the shrimp nor the stripped herring. The salmon were gravid and were behaving as though they were in their natural habitat - starving in preparation to spawn and then die utilizing the proteins from their own bodies.

Well, all good things must come to an end. Just imagine, tomorrow is our last official day working on this research project. The three-and-a-half weeks just flew by. As the saying goes - Time flies when you're having fun. This project was fun as well as an enlightening experience. It was an excellent journey into the field of behavioral ecology and physiology. All of us became attached to the otters and were very excited when they behaved in certain ways, especially if these behaviors were instinctive. We waited patiently to observe anticipated behaviors and also reacted to the predicted behaviors with great excitement. It is difficult to suddenly withdraw ourselves from this project in which we were totally immersed for the past few weeks. However, all is not lost. We will be in constant communication via web site and email with Dr. Ben-David regarding the remaining phases of the research. I have learned a great deal of information from this project and I can't wait to share all of it with my students, colleagues, friends and relatives. Here ends another day in the life of the river otters. Tomorrow I

hope that all of the otters will come out and roam around in the outdoor lab so that I can see them one more time before I leave for home. These otters are just adorable.

River otter habitat in Resurrection Bay, near where we were fishing.

Dinner with the 'otter crew' (L-R: Noa, Elisa, Olav, Myrtle, Merav, and Susanne).

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