Posted by: atowhee | January 11, 2014


Watching a river otter can be like watching a piggish neighbor at a bar-b-que. How can he eat that much that fast? But the otter offers more excitement, more humor and more athletic prowess than most human fressers. Just look:ottr look

ottr nose

ottr observAll these photos were taken at Ashland Pond this week, on two different occasions. Probably the same, single otter each time.
ittr yawn

ottr chew

ottr cruz

ottr side

ottr teeth

CHAMPION DIVER In mediocre light I finally got to get shots of a series of fishing dives. Almost every time the otter seemed to have caught a fish. The otter will cruise along the surface with just his head and part of his tail above the waterline, most of his body in the water. Suddenly he ducks (nice word in this context) his head straight down and the strong front legs drag the rest of his four-foot body down in to the water. Some of otter’s swimming strength comes from webbed feet, speaking of ducks! Part-way into the dive the lower half of his trunk would arch up from the water as the front end of the otter is by this time heading vertically into the deeper water. At the end of the surface dive the tail arcs acutely as it follows the rest of the body and even the back legs are briefly in the air. Finally just the cigar-tip of the tail is last to disappear into the water. Then only bubbles rise to the surface giving away his proximate location until the otter resurfaces, face first. Here are a series of dives:ottr-diveww

ottr dive-xx


dive starts

ottr downs In this next dive the ptter’s head was ont he right hand side of the screen:

ottr-fsh1 This is a good-sized river otter, probably four-feet long and weighting 20 pounds or more…if you could dry him out. They are known to hunt in fields and on dry land at night but their forte is out-swimming anything that lives in the water. Usually the ducks and Coots leave the pond or move to edges when he’s fishing. Even the Great Blue Heron watched carefully from his log as the otter fished nearby.


ottr-swm The river otter is smaller than his pelagic cousin but will go to sea. They are found in the San Juan Islands north of Puget Sound. Here they are mostly in the Rogue River and Bear Creek and nearby water bodies like Ashland Pond. My book tells me they can out-run you humans, even on land. Clearly they could out-swim an Olympian at any distance. As for diving, they get high judges’ marks for elegance and style, not to mention fishing skill. Here’s one last dive sequence, otter heading toward the left this time:

The otter has disappeared from the surface, leaving a circle of small waves and rising bubbles.

After each dive, the otter assesses his pond, ponders his next move.
ottr observs


  1. Great shots!

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