IFLScience has never been one to coo over otters, which can be some of the biggest douchebags in the animal kingdom. Sure, they may look cute, but they are no strangers to dastardly deeds like kidnapping baby otters and holding them ransom for food. But hey, they gotta eat, right? Otters are carnivores that need to eat about a quarter of their body weight every single day. Though it may seem surprising, otters are typically the apex predators or very near the top.
Yesterday, photos of a river otter taking on a young alligator appeared on the Facebook page for the Lake Woodruff National Wildlife Refuge in Florida, taken back in 2011 by Geoff Walsh during a visit. Many comments on the photos don’t believe that the photos could be real, claiming they are a product of Photoshop.
Reptile expert Terry Phillip was approached by National Geographic to comment on the legitimacy of the encounter. He stated that this type of event would be fairly common where otters and alligators occupy the same environment. He estimates that the alligator is about four years old and 1.5 meters (5 feet) in length. The otter, on the other hand, probably weighs about 13.6 kilograms (30 pounds). Attacking the back of the gator’s neck keeps it out of reach from the teeth. However, the otter doesn’t kill the gator itself.
Alligators are largely sedentary, though they are able to employ quick bursts of movement in order to catch prey or avoid it. The downside is that this level of energy cannot be sustained. As long as the otter holds on tight, it just has to wait for the gator to wear itself out, which doesn’t take long. Eventually, the alligator’s body has too much lactic acid (the chemical that makes your muscles “burn” after exercising) and it completely fatigues and dies. The otter then takes it on land where it can more easily rip it apart and eat it.
These pictures show the otter carefully staying away from the teeth, until the alligator finally goes limp. Though the photographer lost sight of the animals moments after the final picture, the otter could be heard munching on the alligator shortly after.
All photos credited to Geoff Walsh via Lake Woodruff National Wildlife Refuge