A river otter lurks near an American mink's den in this trail camera photo. Credit: Courtesy of Savannah Navas, Joshua McCoy and Hannah Gilds

Over the past several months we’ve established the fact that using trail cams to capture images of animals can be a lot of fun. Thanks to today’s installment, we’ve also learned that those photos can play key roles in serious research.

Joshua McCoy, an organismal biology major at Messiah University in Mechanicsburg, Pennsylvania, reached out with photos he thought Bangor Daily News readers would enjoy.

“Two of my fellow students and I are working on a research project on temporal den behavior patterns in American mink, and as part of our research we set up a number of game cameras throughout our campus area,” McCoy said.

The photo shows a river otter, which McCoy and his research partners, Savannah Navas and Hannah Gilds, did not expect.

An American mink with a wound on its neck is shown in this trail camera photo. Researchers think the wound might have been sustained during a struggle with a river otter. Credit: Courtesy of Savannah Navas, Joshua McCoy and Hannah Gilds

“This was the only photo footage that we acquired of the otter throughout our documentation period, which began in early March and is still ongoing,” McCoy said. “The sighting was an oddity mainly because the river otter is not listed as a well-established species in Cumberland County, Pennsylvania. The PA Game Commission website lists the eastern half of Cumberland County as an area where the otter is ‘poorly established.’ The river otter was reintroduced to the Susquehanna River, after being extirpated in the 20th century. Furthermore, according to Dr. David Foster, my professor and overseer of this research project, this is the first documented river otter sighting on the campus of Messiah University.”

And there’s some evidence that the mink that lives in the den is not a big fan of the otter’s presence.

“We did also notice one other interesting detail. In several of our photos of a mink entering and exiting its burrow we noticed a prominent wound on the back of the mink’s neck,” McCoy said. “We had initially attributed this to conflict with another mink, but we now believe it may have been from the otter.”

Do you have a trail camera photo or video to share? Send it to jholyoke@bangordailynews.com and tell us “I consent to the BDN using my photo.” In order to prevent neighbors from stopping by to try to tag particularly large bucks, moose or bears, some identities and towns of origin may be omitted. If you can’t view the photos or video mentioned in this story, go to bangordailynews.com.

John Holyoke

John Holyoke has been enjoying himself in Maine's great outdoors since he was a kid. He spent 28 years working for the BDN, including 19 years as the paper's outdoors columnist or outdoors editor. While...