They are playful, adorable...and they're making a terrible stink in Oak Harbor. River otters are fouling the city's marina and incurring piles of clean-up costs.

Otter plops that put even a good sized dog to shame are staining docks. The otters climb aboard boats as well, ruining rugs and turning the cabins into poop decks.

They're scavengers, said Harbormaster Chris Sublet. They eat lots of fish, so you can imagine the smell is horrible. Just horrible.

Add to that the daily battle with bird droppings and the clean-up is costing the city about to $20,000 a year. Those working the docks say they're most concerned about public safety, especially regarding children who might see a sweet looking otter and get a violent reaction.

Marina employee Neil Ketchum got cornered by an ornery otter protecting her pup.

She took one look at me, started chattering her teeth and hissing and walking right at me, Ketchum said. I just took my hat off and started flailing my arms and she finally went into the water. A child might not be so lucky.

Unlike sea otters, river otters are not a protected species. The U.S. Department of Agriculture handles situations involving wildlife. Because Oak Harbor has so many otters, the USDA's plan isn't to relocate them, but to kill them.

Public sentiment in the city, however, is running in favor of the otters.

Leave them alone, said Mike Simpson, who sees the otters on his jogs around the marina. They were here first.
Supporters say volunteers can help clean the docks, and the city should just post a sign warning people to steer clear of the cute critters.

The city brags about the walking trail here, said photographer Mary Jo Adams. It makes no sense to me to tell people to get out and look at the scenery and then kill the wildlife.

Chris Sublet stresses the city does not want to have the otters killed. In fact, he says he's asking the USDA to hold off on any euthanasia plan while the city looks at other options.

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