You’d think that the otter relatives would have a few similarities but I’m beginning to have serious doubts.
It’s not that I have a lot of experience observing. For the last few decades, otters have been pretty much like UFOs and Sasquatches – lots of reports of sightings and a few blurry photos that really could be anything.
I think it all started in Yellowstone a few years back when we were told the river otters were down by the … river. Maybe it was a figure of speech but they remained safely out of our sight.
Our regular trips to Prince Albert National Park (PANP) in Saskatchewan the last few years have peaked my otter interest. A few of our favourite haunts have consistently showed serious evidence – holes in the ice, unusual-looking tracks in the snow and a sign announcing the presence of otters. I even got an out-of-focus photo of a brown creature slipping into the water. Could it be …
“I suppose they have good incentive to keep moving so they don’t get frozen in place during a harsh winter!”
A weekend ago in (PANP), we noticed some otters on the lake ice far off in the distance. Maybe I should say there were brown, living creatures and they looked promising. When it was clear they weren’t going to be running up to us to say hello, we ventured out on the lake in their direction.
It was only a little disconcerting to step through a foot of snow into a couple of inches of water before finally hitting solid ice. We reminded ourselves it was too early in the season to fall through. Definitely. Almost certainly.
We casually sauntered on the lake towards the otters though I felt more than a little conspicuous in a sea of white. Unfortunately the otters disappeared before I got in good range for even my long lens. Thankfully I did manage a few shots.
That got me thinking of the river otter’s coastal cousins in California which I first observed within the last few months. They really don’t have a lot in common.
Each of the three times we’ve gone to Elkhorn Slough the sea otters were hanging out as if they were waiting for us. The first time we saw them before we noticed the sign announcing their presence. It’s somehow comforting to always have them there.
As for activity, it’s always nap time for the sea otters. We were told about all the time they spent fishing but that might be another one of those UFO reports. These guys were always napping or slowly pushing themselves in the water. They sure know how to kick back and relax.
Back in Canada, the river otters we saw were constantly on the move. I suppose there is good incentive not to get frozen in place during a harsh winter. All that calorie-burning activity might also explain why the lazing-around sea otters were so much larger, huge in fact. It was like a completely different animal with built-in slippers and an extra thick onsie. You’d hardly think they were related.
Of course, the one thing they have in common is that they are both some of my favourite photo targets. And now I have the photo evidence!