Seeing a River Otter here is a rare treat. I saw one in March 2019, and photographer James Kusz saw another that November. Now, two years later, a third. Documented by two photographers, no less. James got a short video of the otter swimming and diving. Photographer Phil Rowntree got images of the wet mammal clinging to the big pipe that forms the outflow of Schoolhouse Creek.
Their presence, however rare, is good news for the species. Their hair is extraordinarily dense, with nearly 58,000 hairs per square centimeter. They were hunted for their pelts and were extirpated in many regions by the late 1970s. Water pollution and habitat destruction further diminished their numbers. There has been some recovery since then, and currently the otter is not listed as an endangered species.
Given clean water and freedom from hunting pressure, the river otter is a versatile and talented survivor. It is at home in saltwater as well as fresh, oceans, estuaries, and lakes as well as rivers. It is not only an excellent swimmer, it also travels fast and well on land when it wants to move to a different body of water. It’s a carnivore that will hunt and eat anything from fish to insects to mammals. birds, and reptiles. It has few natural predators in water. Otters were once abundant throughout North America. They’re rare now but not gone.