Otters at Play

Two river otters play in Bower Slough

At the dog park this morning two young dogs were playing when suddenly in their rough play a line was crossed and things got more serious. Their owners separated them and the aggression quickly dissipated and hopefully each dog made a little progress in their socialization. These two otters were part of a family group catching fish in Bower Slough, and thus were quite familiar with each other, but even so when one otter grabbed the other by the scruff of the neck I wondered if this playful move was a bridge too far. But as you can see the otter’s skin is loose with plenty of fat underneath and the victim took it all in stride.

Surprise Ending

Close-up view of a great egret's face

I spent New Year’s Eve at Ridgefield from sunrise to sunset. It was sunny and cold throughout the day and the shallower ponds had partially frozen. Near the end of the day I was parked near the start of the auto tour so it would be easy to leave before the gate closed. A great egret was hunting bullfrogs in the shallow channel beside the road and I expected it would be my last wildlife sighting of the year. Not a bad way to end the year.

A river otter breaks through the ice so it can take a breath

But then I heard a loud crack in the ice and looked down to see that a river otter had punched though the ice to come up for air. It didn’t stay long before submerging and swimming out of sight, but it made me laugh, Ridgefield giving me one last surprise to close out the year.

Surprise Ending

The egret had moved on, the otter had swum away, so I was about to pack up my camera for the trip home when a couple of hooded mergansers swam by in open water beside the ice, beautiful in the last light of the day. My goodness but the refuge was putting on a display. After a quick scan to make sure bigfoot wasn’t hiding in the bushes, I packed up my camera and headed home.

Crossing Over

A river otter surfaces with a fish in its mouth

When car shopping a couple of years ago, I only considered cars where it was easy to cross from the driver’s seat to the passenger’s seat. I was specifically thinking of situations like this at the auto tour at my local refuge, where I saw a family of river otters to the right of the car and the best views were from the passenger seat. Thankfully crossing over is easy to do in the Subaru Crosstrek we bought and I was able to watch the otters for quite a while as they groomed and played and ate. I was struck by how, even in the midst of vigorous play, the siblings would catch a fish when the opportunity presented itself and enjoy a quick snack before resuming play.