North American River Otters: An essay in photos and words #2

For video of a River otter eating a large fish visit here For the story behind that otter eating the fish visit here.

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I rose early and headed out for a little kayak photography on a gray and foggy morning. I arrived at my put in, and somehow there was just something in the air… or maybe the water. It just felt like an otter sort of day, and I thought to myself that I would get lucky and have an encounter.

I paddled across the silent still waters of Tomales Bay. The occasional yet very distant seal head rose above the surface. A few fishing boats were about already, motoring their steady way along the bay, getting ready for a little trolling. I snapped a few shots of the fog enshrouded bay, nothing too exciting, but fun nonetheless. When I reached the far side, I turned north and began making my way along the shoreline. I only went a few hundred yards, before I came across them.

River otter watching its crew

I watched them as they hunted the waters close to the shore, herding fish in front of them and also searching for crabs and other invertebrates. After a short while they became aware of me, but did not seem overly concerned, as I had not approached especially close. As I sat there in my kayak, watching them, they romped their way towards me.

Younger otter with its pod, taking to the shore as they passed where I sat in my kayak

I was fairly close to shore, and as they passed me, they decided to take to land for a short stretch to avoid the small piece of water that I was occupying in my unmoving kayak. Once they passed me, they returned to the water. Not wanting to disturb their routine, I headed farther from shore to shadow them and watch from a greater distance.

The otters returned to the water and continued their hunt along the shoreline

They seemed to work and hunt in unison, winding and threading their way amongst each other, changing direction with each other. Then they seemed to reach a spot that they all knew. In a charging romp they left the water together and went charging up the shore into the twisted roots and branches of a small copse of trees on the shore. I assume it is where their den was. I could hear the crashing and breaking of branches as they played and wreaked havoc inside.

As a group they left the water and bounded (as only members of the weasel family can) toward a spot on shore that they all knew well

It was at this point that I stopped taking still pictures. I sat out there, far from shore, and decided to wait a short time to see if they would come back out, that I might film them… and they did. The story continues with video here.

For more photographs of otters, you can visit this page- River otters: An extensive essay in photos. There is some text, but it is mostly images.

About Galen Leeds Photography

Nature and wildlife photographer, exploring the world on his feet and from his kayak. Among other genres, he is one of the leading kayak photographers in Northern California. To learn more about him, visit him on his website-
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