Thursday, July 18, 2013

Playful Pups

My son really wanted to go fishing for his sixth birthday.  I hadn't actually done this myself, so we spent some time on Google, and headed up to our local lake (Alpine Lake for the locals), to enthusiastically pretend I knew how to fish.  When we got there, we were overjoyed to instead be greeted by a family of river otters (Lontra canadensis).
Which is my better side?  This one? 
Or maybe this one?
The entire family didn't greet us at once.  The first glimpse we got was auditory, a happy crunching sound as an adult made short work of crayfish.  We'd see a sleek brown head pop up near some reeds, and then animated noshing.  The otter would then dive back down, it's body curling up out of the water as it went, and a few minutes later it would pop up with another crustacean.


Crunch crunch

We had pulled the hooks off the lines, as we didn't want to catch an otter, and were watching the otter's antics for awhile, while flame skimmer dragonflies cruised by.  After awhile, the otter disappeared, and from a patch of reeds we heard a "unh unh unh" call, and were thrilled when that one otter became four.  I couldn't tell it was four until we looked at the photos later.  In the moment it was just one big wiggling, squiggling tumble of squeaks and splashes.

Looking at the pics, you can see that some of the otters are slightly smaller.  We think these are pups from this year (likely born around February).

We watched from a distance until the family made it's way down a creek.

After a few more practice casts, and jumps in the water after minnows, the kid was happy and ready to head home.  We submitted our Otter Spotter Report, and called it a day.

References and Additional Information
River Otter Species Info:
River Otter Ecology Project:
Crayfish Wiki -
Fun article on Non-Scientific Names of Crayfish -
David Herlocker on local dragonflies -
Nature Blog Network