Wildlife experts solve security camera mystery

An otter run in the state forest—Courtesy Luanne Johnson. That's river otter footage below, according to local wildlife experts—Courtesy Robert Sawyer.

Recent security camera footage at a Tisbury home captured a small animal scampering through a yard. Baffled, the homeowner reached out to The Times, inquiring if it might be a weasel. The homeowner’s instincts were partly right. The creature was identified by Martha’s Vineyard Agricultural Society president Brian Athearn, Felix Neck Wildlife Sanctuary director Suzan Bellincampi, and BiodiversityWorks director Luanne Johnson as a river otter

“Unbeknownst to most folks, river otters are quite agile on land and move long distances on overland routes across the Island,” Johnson emailed. “There are otter runs through the State Forest. It is mating season, but otters are moving around the Island throughout the year — however, they are often doing so at night or around dawn [and] dusk.”

Johnson went on to write that she’s encountered one otter run that crosses the State Forest and goes to the head of Oyster Pond. 

“Females are giving birth this time of year, and they mate a couple of weeks after parturition (giving birth),” she wrote. “Males have nothing to do with rearing pups, so the females are mostly solitary. A fascinating fact of river otters is that the females have one of the longest delayed implantation periods of any mammal — the fertilized eggs stay in a sort of suspended animation until early spring next year — implantation is triggered by 10 to 11 hours of daylight.”