UFO Otters??

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.


There’s nothing quite like a nap on the beach …

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!


Or floating in the water and taking it easy. 



Latest Comments

  1. hannele says:

    I kept laughing while reading this. It’s a good thing.

    Great pictures, again. They are a bit otherworldly, those otters, and the way they float…


    • Lyle Krahn says:

      I completely agree on the value of laughter and highly recommend it. I’m happy to hear about it too.

      Those otters truly are unlike any other creature. I think that’s a leading reason why I enjoy them so much.


  2. kirizar says:

    Perhaps you should invest in some snow-camouflage gear and water wings for your next expedition onto questionable ice!


  3. caleephotography says:

    Otters are so cute. And sometimes they hold hands when they sleep to make sure they don’t drift apart, aaaaaw.. 🙂 Great shots, Lyle.


    • Lyle Krahn says:

      I guess we’ll mark you down as another fan! I just can’t get enough of those adorable creatures and holding hands when they sleep is another photo I’d love to have.


  4. krikitarts says:

    We loved the Elkhorn Slough, too, and I’d so love to visit it again! I’ve seen otters a few times near our cabin in northern Minnesota while paddling my canoe, but they’ve always been too elusive for any successful photographs. I keep hoping, though!


    • Lyle Krahn says:

      Where there’s otters there’s hope – maybe you’ll get one soon! I would like to get back to Elkhorn Slough as well. It’s a special place especially now with memories.


  5. Jeff Bell says:

    In Glacier Bay we had River Otters and Sea Otters in the same vicinity. The river otters are huge – nearly 90 pounds, and they make really loud noises when they are mating on your porch. Sea otters were very reliable photo subjects especially in the evening when they were hunting. I never saw one on the beach though.


  6. Steve Gingold says:

    Down by the river-I shot an otter.
    I’ve never managed to shoot an otter, but they are fun to watch. So playful. Love the look in the banner shot, Lyle.


  7. Mandy says:

    I’ve still got shivers thinking about walking over a frozen (supposedly) lake. Don’t get much of a chance for adventure such as that in Australia.


  8. Mike Powell says:

    Otterly amazing shots, Lyle. It is a little shocking that anyone ever captures images of a river otter. I can count on two fingers the number of times I have seen a river otter in the wild and on one finger the number of times I have managed to get a photo. They are rare and elusive, which makes that first shot so special. As for the southern cousins, I lived for a year in Monterey, California and got to see them with some regularity. I was amazed how they could eat while floating on their back and using rocks to crack open shellfish.


  9. Hillechien says:

    Stunning pictures of these animals.


  10. kbeezyisviral says:

    Wonderfully captured photo. This intrigues me, immensely. I hope I have the pleasure of seeing some otters soon.


  11. Lavinia Ross says:

    Beautiful photos of these fun loving creatures, Lyle! I wonder if they ever get mistaken for young Loch Ness type monsters? 🙂


  12. panhirsch says:

    Brilliant photos! Luv the nap on a beach. Otters are lovely animals!


  13. westerner54 says:

    Wonderful. Your photos are always the best. I remember watching otters along the Yellowstone River many years ago. We didn’t have any binoculars, but we watched them on the opposite shore for nearly an hour. Whey suddenly took off – into the air, flapping their little “otter” wings – we both yelled “flying otters!” We were so invested in those ducks being otters that we were sure we’d discovered a new species!


    • Lyle Krahn says:

      That’s funny! Well told. I have been convinced many times that I was seeing something exciting only to have it turn out to be a rock. Oh the disappointment.


  14. Alison says:

    Otters are amazing. I wish I had one-tenth of their energy! If you are ever in the Portland, OR, area, the Ridgefield National Wildlife Refuge is a reliable place to spot river otters. Nice shots!


    • Lyle Krahn says:

      Duly noted. Thanks. They are fascinating creatures and I only wish I got to spend more time with them. I keep getting all these positive reports of Oregon which makes me want to check it out. And yes – spare energy would be nice.


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