• Outdoors Outdoors

Powerful footage shows rescue of otter trapped in Massachusetts dam: 'He needed food so badly'

"This is a wonderful thing you all did."

"This is a wonderful thing you all did."

Photo Credit: Instagram

A river dam in Massachusetts is in the process of being removed to help the local ecosystem — but before the project could be completed, some citizens came together to help one otter that was struggling because of the dammed river.

Video of the rescue mission was posted to Instagram by the Massachusetts Division of Marine Fisheries (@massmarinefisheries). "Recently an otter had been trying to swim up the Ipswich Mills Dam for 3+ days," the video said.

Several attempts were made to help the otter, who was getting visibly tired and could be heard crying. First, someone tried to catch it in a net (breaking the net in the process). Then, they lowered the flow of the fish ladder that was built in and installed a ramp, which the otter unfortunately could not figure out how to use. Then, they baited a donated trap with frozen herring and appointed a neighbor as the official "otter spotter."

That last attempt worked. The otter was trapped, enjoyed a nice fishy snack, and then was released above the dam. 

"Why don't you install a passageway for otters and other wildlife?" asked one concerned commenter.

"Great question! Normally we see otters use a storm drain AND the fish ladder to travel up and down this particular dam. Unfortunately this otter did not learn how to do that," the Massachusetts Division of Marine Fisheries responded.

"Thank you!! He needed food so badly. This is a wonderful thing you all did," wrote another commenter.

Once the dam is fully removed, otters and other wildlife will be able to traverse the river freely. The National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) described the need for the dam removal, writing that, "Historic mill dams … are a common sight in small-town Massachusetts. Most of the state's 3,000 dams are obsolete … Removing dams reconnects ecosystems upon which fish, wildlife, and people still depend."

Another such dam removal project, in Ohio, recently showed how much an area around a dam can be revitalized by allowing the river to run naturally — a time-lapse video shows the area around the removed dam becoming much greener and more lush over time. A recent conversion of a golf course back into a natural habitat in Ohio showed how manufactured developments can take away vital ecological processes that native plants can provide, as the restoration led to an increase in natural water filtration, among other benefits. 

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