Week 8: Apex Predators and Semi-Aquatic Mammals

An apex predator is an animal at the top of their food chain, with no predators of their own. They have an incredibly important role in ecosystems because they maintain balance and diversity, ensuring that the populations of the animals they prey upon do not become too large.

In the Adirondacks, one of the most important apex predators you can find are North American river otters. Like other semi-aquatic mammals, or mammals that live both in water and on land, North American river otters have adapted to survive through cold winters and warm summers.

Discover what it’s like to live at the top like an apex predator and then sink under water to see what it means to be semi-aquatic in the final week of Jr. Naturalist!


To help you get started:

Learn about the story of the wolves and the coyotes in the Adirondacks with Michael, Nick, and Shyia.

Start with a tracking adventure with Michael, then learn about coyotes and wolves in the Adirondacks with Nick at minute 8:45. Get a closer look at wolf and coyote skulls with Shyia at minute 15:12.

Detangle predator and prey interactions with Michael. 

First learn what makes a fisher such an effective predator and then check out minute 12:24 to see a comparison of predator and prey skulls.

Get the low down on North American river otters with Michael and Nick. 

First play a guessing game with Michael to see the differences between Adirondack predators and semi-aquatic mammals. Then, at minute 5:52, get some background information about North American river otter, and learn about the lives of the otters that live at The Wild Center.

Learn how to become an ecosystem engineer like a beaver with Michael and Shannon.

Start by comparing and contrasting the pelts and skulls of a beaver and black bear. Then go on a trip down the Raquette River oxbow to learn about beaver dams and lodges at minute 10:20. At minute 18:55 watch Shyia and Kayleigh’s examples for this week’s beaver dam engineering challenge.