River otters traveling along the dry creek

In February 2022 we captured a very brief video clip of a weary-looking river otter heading west along the dry creek-bed (the otter would have been heading upstream had there been a stream). It was dusk, and the otter had nearly 2 miles to go before he or she had any chance of finding water.

We were astonished. We had never seen an otter here before and we never expected to see another.

But on 27 December 2022 we did. This time it was before dawn and the otter was heading east (downstream, but still minus a stream, and this time with 4 miles to go before reaching water).

Both video clips are short – only 7 or 8 seconds long – but the creature we’re seeing is clearly a river otter.

In the second video, the otter is heading down toward the creek bed from the top of the bank. We don’t know what he/she did there, because the camera didn’t catch it, but whatever it was the other critters seemed to think it was enormously exciting. Every animal who went by the spot (now called “Otter Point”, thank you Chris) stopped to investigate. Foxes and coyotes rolled around in it, skunks dug little holes, raccoons snuffled about and then shuddered in ecstasy, the deer paused and sniffed the ground as they went by. Even a pair of armadillos came to check it out.

Otters are members of the mustelid family, which includes weasels, badgers, polecats, and wolverines. Apparently all mustelids except for sea otters can produce a strong-smelling secretion from their anal scent glands. We can’t attest to its potency – we went down to investigate but couldn’t see or smell anything – but to the other mammals it was apparently like a mixture of Chanel #5 and crack cocaine.

We hope that both our otters are safe in a stream somewhere, with crawdads and clean water, but they were embarked on dangerous and seemingly impossible journeys along our waterless creek. We worry that the cards were probably stacked against them.



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