Otters take up residence in N.S. basement

A Nova Scotia man is entertaining a family of unexpected and unwelcome guests at his Eastern Shore home — otters.
A Nova Scotia family is dealing with some unexpected guests - a den of otters living under their home. 2:13

A Nova Scotia man is entertaining a family of unexpected and unwelcome guests at his Eastern Shore home — otters.

"About three weeks ago, I was stepping out our front door and I saw some animals dart out from under the steps. I couldn't tell quite what it was," Jim Turner said from his home in DeBaies Cove.

"A little while later the dog was barking at the heater vents around the house so I figured there must be somebody in the basement."

When Turner went downstairs, he discovered the dog was barking at an animal — not a person. He took a picture of it and sent it to the provincial Department of Natural Resources, who confirmed it was an otter.

He thought at first the otter had been pushed out of its natural habitat and was forced to look for a new home.

"About a week later, I started noticing straw pieces being dragged into the basement so I thought, 'Uh oh.' We thought he had left by then," Turner explained.

"We went downstairs to investigate. It wasn't a 'he,' it was a 'she,' because we started hearing little peeping sounds in the corner of the basement. So she has decided to use our basement for her nest."

Otters listen to CBC Radio

Turner believes the otter has two or three pups with her, though he has not been able to get close enough to check.

His family doesn't mind having them around, except for the fact that she smells a little bit like a skunk, he said.

"Especially if we try to do things to get her to leave — which we were recommended to do — sometimes she will retaliate and the house will smell kind of musty for a few hours," Turner said.

Experts with the Department of Natural Resources suggested making the makeshift habitat less comfortable by shining a bright light on the nest and turning the radio on nearby. They also suggested putting cayenne pepper in a tissue and tossing it around the basement to make it smell less attractive.

Turner said he tuned the radio to CBC to make the otters think there were humans around.

"They get lots of talking and learn something while they're listening, I guess. They seemed to like it because they haven't left," he said, laughing.

Turner said the family will persist in their efforts to gently drive the otters out by shining lights and keeping the radio on. Their primary concern is to encourage the mother to leave and take her babies with her.

"So far she's just moved from one corner of the basement to another. She's really pretty ingenious," said Turner.

"She collected all the cardboard around and built a little fort in the basement so she's quite protected there. Unfortunately, she feels very at home."