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In Search for the seldom-seen River Otters in Puget Sound

Updated: Aug 29, 2023


Today I went on a search for the seldom-seen river otters in Puget Sound.


When you think of otters, for most people the cute and cuddly sea otter comes to mind. Sea otters are adapted to living in the ocean and will remain in the sea. River otters not only live in lakes, ponds, and rivers but can also thrive along the ocean coastline. River otters are much smaller in size compared to the Sea otter and unlike sea otters, river otters will roam many miles inland in search of food and water sources. River otters mainly enjoy eating fish but also eat mussels, crabs, crayfish, amphibians, large aquatic beetles, birds, bird eggs, fish eggs, and small mammals.



After getting some helpful location tips from a local photographer Ty Kent (www.earthrootzimagery.com), I was hopeful that I would be able to locate some of these elusive creatures in the Puget Sound area of Washington.



The weather was perfect and the sun was shining, After spending several hours exploring one of the suggested areas, I was about to give up. After walking over three miles on the rocky coastline with the rising tide, I noticed a small furry blob on a rock. I maneuvered across the wet rocks to get closer to confirm my finding.



Having confirmed the little furry blob as a river otter I hung out to view its activities. After a few minutes, a second otter appeared with food that they both shared. Once the two finished eating the unknown sea creature, they proceeded to clean each other. After the cleaning, the larger of the two otters notified me that my viewing time was over with a few barks and the showing of its canines.



Washington River Otters

Washington river otters are a subspecies of the North American river otter and can be found in freshwater habitats across the state. These sleek and agile creatures have long, streamlined bodies, short legs, and webbed feet that make them excellent swimmers. They have a thick, waterproof coat of fur that helps keep them warm in cold water, which is especially important during the winter months when water temperatures can drop below freezing.


River otters are highly social animals that live in family groups known as rafts. Rafts typically consist of a dominant female and her offspring, although sometimes other females and males may also join. These groups are highly active and engage in play and social grooming, which helps to strengthen social bonds and maintain their waterproof fur.


One of the most entertaining behaviors of Washington river otters is their playful nature. Otters can be seen sliding down muddy banks, playing with objects they find in the water, and engaging in mock fights with each other. Their playful antics can be a joy to watch and provide a glimpse into their unique and fascinating world.


Another important aspect of river otter behavior is their diet. Otters are opportunistic feeders and will eat a wide variety of prey, including fish, crayfish, frogs, and even small mammals. Their streamlined bodies and webbed feet make them incredibly efficient hunters, and they are able to catch fish and other prey with remarkable speed and agility.


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