Call of the wild

Call of the wild

It's good to know that the natural world can, at least in some cases, be restored.

Hurray for the otters. With a little help from their friends, these members of the weasel family have made it back to Illinois' rivers, streams and ponds in a big way.

There's just one problem with them. They're not pets; they're wild animals. Their ways are not our ways.

So living with otters requires accommodating their habits and occasionally thinning their ranks. But then, no one ever said maintaining the balance of nature would be problem-free.

Otters are one of the wonders of nature. They're slim, fast, cute. According to otter experts, they possess the "world's densest fur. At its thickest, this two-layer fur is made up of more than a million hairs per square inch."

In other words, they possess luxurious, waterproof coats others covet. That's why otters were hunted to near extinction in Illinois, attaining endangered status in 1989. Thankfully, conservationists worked hard in the 1990s to reintroduce the otter to state waters, and the program has worked beautifully.

However, large otter populations can cause problems. They eat almost anything and everything, posing threats to fish populations. They leave messes in their wake.

Otters, of course, are not alone in affecting those around them. It's part of the circle of life in which they play an important role. That's why it's good to see them restored to the landscape of Illinois.

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