Rick Perry discovered these skeletons at a dumping site on the Duncan Bay Main logging road west of Campbell River. Photo by Rick Perry

New conclusion reached in Campbell River animal skeleton mystery – otters

A verdict is in on the animal skeletons that were dumped on a logging road near Campbell River last month and it’s not what was initially thought.

The skeletons were discovered on the Duncan Bay Main logging road west of Campbell River on March 23 by Rick Perry who posted a picture of them on Facebook asking what people thought they were.

Conservation Officer James Hilgemann saw the pictures and initially concluded they were probably wolf or cougar skeletons inappropriately disposed of by a hunter. But after Hilgemann got the opportunity to get out to the site and see the skeletons for himself, he sent pictures to the provincial veterenarian.

The conclusion? Otters; either sea or river otters.

“I took photographs. One of the rear feet had some webbed padding so it looked like, you know, otter, so I fired those off to our provincial vet and she made the determination that (they were) probably, likely river otter, although maybe sea otter as well,” Hilgemann said.

Without collecting DNA, it could not be conclusive but it was “definitely the otter family,” Hilgemann said.

There is a trapping season for river otter and Hilgemann said he has been told that there is a ceremonial harvest of sea otters – the pelts for regalia, for example.

“But just the fact that there’s seven or eight skeletons leads me to believe that likely it’s a cache from a trapper,” Hilgemann said.

A trapper will tend his traps and stash the harvest in the freezer and then process the animals at the end of the season and end up dumping the animals together.

“That’s kind of my gut feeling,” Hilgemann said.

Dumping animal remains is not illegal, although it is recommended by the Ministry of Environment that they be disposed away from human habitation and the likelihood of being seen by the public, which was not done in this case. They were dumped with a piles of other trash.

The skeletons in the picture make it difficult to gain a sense of the scale of the animals leading to speculation about them being larger animals like wolves or cougars but in person the remains were about the size of a Labrador retreiver, Hilgemann said.

The conclusion will please some people who commented on the pictures when they were initially posted on the Facebook site, Campbell River rant, rave and randomness. A couple of commenters guessed they were otters while others ranged from deer and elk or even dogs. There were some actual deer and elk remains dumped near the otter skeletons.

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