Saturday, November 05, 2005

Otters and the Weasel Sex Trade

The other weekend my wife and I went to Big Cedar Resort near Branson. You know that Expedia commercial in which a father is booking a hotel for his kids where he envisions them going to a hunting lodge? If not, in the commercial the father imagines that his children are frightened by all the "stuffed" animals-bears, wolves etc. Well, that commercial could have been filmed at Big Cedar. Associated with the resort is a private nature and fishing park called Dogwood Canyon Park which has a very nice tram ride and lots of wildlife.

The guide, shown in the picture, was showing us this stream loaded with huge German and rainbow trout- the park earns lots of its money from daily fishing tours when he mentioned that they had a mysterious predator that had been eating their trout, and he told how he had tracked it down, killed it and now it was mounted and on display in the park store. The predator turned out to be a male river otter, weighing about 30 pounds. Now the guide said that they had to kill it since it needed to eat 15% of its weight in fish per day. Seems reasonable since otters are active.

Now while I sympathize with the Park's plight I just couldn't help be a tad upset. After all, otters are not that common; I have never seen one in the wild and I happen to have a soft spot for otters ever since when I was young read about a family who kept one as a pet. My wife- evil person that she is- had no sympathy with my arguments that the park might be able to draw more visitors with frolicking otters than through fly fishing. She didn't buy my argument that a little predation might improve the stock of fish, make them more challenging to catch because assuredly the otter would kill only the weak and slow trout.

I couldn't even get her sympathy when I described how the otter was merely scouting out sites for his family and now there was this widow otter and her pups alone in the world and how the mother would have to sell her kids to the weasel sex trade to earn money to buy trout at the supermarket. Sigh...It's all about the all mighty buck...a term the guide claimed was derived from the use of buck skins as currency worth well, about a buck.

Dogwood Canyon is free to enter but the tram and most of the other activities do cost money. But if you are in that neck of the woods and want to see elk and bison up close along with the fattest most tame trout you will ever see, Dogwood Canyon might be worth a a visit unless of course you are an otter.
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