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Sunday, May 10, 2009

Otters!

Many people mistakenly assume that any otter you see in saltwater is a sea otter, but here in the Salish Sea it is actually river otters (Lontra canadensis) that you are most likely to see swimming along the coastlines. Back in 2006, there were a few sea otter sightings in the area, probably from an expanding reintroduced population on the Olympic Peninsula, but so far sea otter sightings remain very rare here.

We occasionally see river otters right from our houseboat, and sightings seem to have become more frequent this spring. Until today, however, I haven't been able to get an in-focus photo of them, since the interactions are usually quite brief and near dusk, not a good combination for getting high-quality pictures. Finally I managed to have my camera in hand and get some not-blurry shots when three river otters swam by this afternoon. These photos were taken in my stocking feet from my front porch!


Some of our most recent river otter encounters have actually been at night. About a month ago I woke up to what I thought was a cat fight, but found out a few nights later that what I assumed was feline ferocity was actually mustelid mating. One night before bed we actually watched two otters chase each other around the marina both on the docks and in the water.



Look at the size of that nose! If you're very quiet the otters will just go about their business as they swim by, but with any sudden movements they disappear in a flash. The whole encounter today probably only lasted about 15-20 seconds before they dove and moved on.


Check out those teeth! This guy surfaced with something to eat, although I can't figure out what it is. It almost looks like kelp but as far as I know these animals are carnivores. All the bubbles in the water around him were probably created by his compadres swimming nearby. Such trails of bubbles are often one of the signs I see when I look out the window that alert me to the otters being around, and help with photographic efforts by indicating where the animal is while underwater.

7 comments:

T and S said...

This should have been an awesome sighting. The Otter eating whatever is just so amazing. WOW

Vickie said...

Wonderful encounter. What fun to learn their habits and how to avoid startling them.

Lancashire and Lakeland Outback Adventure Wildlife Safaris said...

Hi Monika - now you just making us totally jealous - brilliant eagle photos followed by absolautely stonking otters AND a garden tick to boot!!! As for Englands eagle - singular! He is very lonely and sits on a rock under a tree in the distant distance looking very forlorn. Not had a mate for several years and until the illegal persecution in southern Scotland stops he's not likely to get one...very sad. BTW he's a Golden. c 400 pairs in northern Scotland and a tiny but slowly increasing number of white tailed closely related to your balds but even bigger; like flying barn doors! What delights have you got for us next? Can't wait!

julie said...

i agree with the english... you are just making us all jealous! BUT i am coming two weeks from today... and i can't wait!! i usually see a few otters hanging out in smallpox bay and along the west side. of course, the eagles are always there, chasing and being chased... keep those photos coming. they're getting me excited!

Monika said...

Haha, sorry to make you all jealous! Hopefully only in a good way. If it makes you feel any better, I'm often jealous of your posts too! We each get our own special part of the world to romp it, but how fun it would be to visit all the places I read about via your blogs....

Dave - A quick Google turned out all sorts of information about Golden Boy, your last golden eagle. I had no idea there was only one single eagle in all of England! It sounds like there's talk of reintroducing the sea eagle though?

Julie - I have a feeling your timing will be perfect. J-Pod has been around for the last week (mostly way up north so no sightings for me), so when you get here it would be the perfect time for them to start doing the "westside shuffle".

Heather said...

How wonderful! Must have been interesting to hear them mating in the middle of the night!

Monika said...

Heather, it really sounded exactly like a cat fight!