River otters are immigrating to the historically fishless Beartooth Plateau as a side effect of fish stocking.
Are they “invasive species” in this alpine environment, impacting native carnivores like red foxes and American martens, or adaptive survivors seeking a climate refugium (not to mention food bonanza) at higher elevations? While learning more about this novel population, we’ve also striven to engage a broad community through popular media, outreach events, and citizen science opportunities.
Citizen Science success
We recorded four sets of otter tracks, collected eight scats, and even spotted an otter during our snow tracking expedition on the Beartooth Plateau in May 2018! Thanks to our 16 citizen scientist volunteers who skied for science, the Jerry Metcalf Foundation and 49 crowdfunding supporters on experiment.com for financial support, and EcoMontana, Town & Country Foods, Costco, and Bozeman Brewing for sponsoring our volunteer appreciation BBQ.
In the middle of covering environment, science, and human rights hot spots around the globe, journalist Wudan Yan took a couple weeks to visit the Beartooth Plateau and explore the questions we are asking in our Alpine Otters project. Her excellent article in the December 2018 High Country News helped us engage countless folks with this exciting ecological story.
Seen any otters?
Have you run into otters, or otter tracks, while exploring the Beartooth Mountains? Dig out your journals and cameras, and send us the most detailed report you can: date, location, number of otters, activity, size differences, etc. What about otter observations in other mountain ranges, places that you know were historically fishless or otherwise seem like an unlikely place to see an otter? Send us those too!