Forest Creatures: River Otters

One of the things I love about the coastal forest is the coastal part. The part where the land and trees meet the sea. It is a harsh interface with the elements of the ocean battering the wall of wood at the forest edge. It is here that the river otter can be found.

As far as I know there are no sea otters in the waters around the south island, but I have seen my share of river otters. Whole families at a time in the spring with mom and dad caring for a roiling, twisting, playful mass of three or four energetic young ones.

They are such sleek swimmers. It is fun to see them diving for crab, then eating them on the beach. Otters use a heavy jaw action to crush the hard shells and the crunching sounds can be heard from a distance.

I caught the river otter above with my camera recently. I was sitting on a beach under some overhanging branches and I was wearing all black clothing. I remained quiet and still as it dove and came up munching, close to shore. Eventually it swam right by me and disappeared up the beach.

Look for these fun to watch creatures along coastlines and along rivers. They excavate dens in riverbanks or use natural hollows such as a hollow log. They raise several pups, keeping them inside for 3 to 4 months before they are allowed out. When river otters aren't eating or sleeping they are playing, so they are very entertaining to watch.

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