Otter Outing

By , August 2, 2011

When Aly arrived home Friday evening for a weekend visit, we were just in time. Walking through the yard I heard a sharp tweeting sound, similar to, but different from the song bird calls we hear around the property. Curious, I went to the edge of the beach and looked into the water, where I found a family of river otters on an outing. I called to Michelle and Aly, and we snuck down to the water’s edge to watch.

An adult otter escorted three very nervous pups along the rocky edge. They piped in alarm and swam so close to the adult that at times they appeared to be climbing up on its back or head. When it dove, they dove right with it, then popped up to the surface to begin crying again. They were small and scrawny, pathetic, and very cute.

We were lucky to get a good view of them from the rocks above without disturbing them. Unfortunately, although Aly tried, we didn’t get any photos of them.

We have seen these outings in the past, or heard them pass in the dark later in the autumn. Usually there are at least two adults, presumably both parents, and extras—uncles and aunts, perhaps, or older siblings. The young ones pipe in alarm, while their elders make the otter comfort sound, a chuckling grunt that sounds like someone saying “what what what what?” very quickly in a low voice. We didn’t hear that Friday, possibly because the wind was fairly high, drowning out the low frequency vocalization. Sometimes we have not been able to observe unnoticed. Then, the pups really get agitated, and the adults make a sneeze-like warning off sound, and glare at us, hoping we’ll go away.

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