This weekend a group of fun little visitors came to my backyard pond and played for hours. A family of river otters trekked through the forest and celebrated their arrival at the pond by spending the rest of the day fishing, swimming and playing. It was entertaining seeing them have such great fun. I pulled up a chair, sat with a couple different cameras around my neck and spent the afternoon watching and taking pictures. The otters watched me too and swam over closer to me as if to invite me into the pond to play along with them. I am glad they recognized me as one of their brothers but it’s a bit risky to go for a swim with them, specially while the parents were supervising, so I resisted the temptation to accept that invitation.
The pair of adult parents and several baby otters made the journey over land from another pond or stream about half a mile away. During that hike they would have been most vulnerable to having an encounter with any of the large predators around. Once in the pond they appeared truly thrilled to be safe again and have a nice quiet place to fish, swim and play.
Watching the otters at work and play showed me a lot about how they get along in the wild. It became very clear that they like to look out for each other at all times. When one went for a swim they all swam together. Then, when one came up on the bank to rest all the others quickly joined him. They rested together, groomed each other, constantly started games of play-fighting and wrestling, and then returned to the pond together. The very active otters repeated this routine for hours and hardly sat still for a moment. It was nice to see how much like real kids those little otters are!
It is no wonder that some Native people see river otters as very special animals. They are perceived as friends, helpful, lucky and full of humor and energy. I had a great time with them and hope my furry little brothers return soon for another day of playing, swimming, fishing and wrestling around in the pond!