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The Daily Bucket is a regular feature of the Backyard Science group.  It is a place to note any observations you have made of the world around you.  Rain, sun, wind...insects, birds, flowers...meteorites, rocks...seasonal changes...all are worthy additions to the bucket.  Please let us know what is going on around you in a comment.  Include, as close as is comfortable for you, where you are located. Each note is a record that we can refer to in the future as we try to understand the patterns that are quietly unwinding around us.
August 2014
Salish Sea, PNW

This River Otter lives in a bay near my house. He has distinctive dark facial markings under his eyes and nose. Dry, you can see them easily. Here he is entering the water from the beach earlier this summer. I am amazed by the size of those feet.

dry otter beach

dry otter running

Watching him fishing, and then hauling out a few days ago I saw some other interesting features. This bay seems to be easy pickings for otters and seals - I see them dive and bring up fish without spending much time searching. Otters bring their food above the surface, and if it can be gulped whole, just eat it while floating, as in this photo.

(All photos by me. In Lightbox...click to enlarge)

Gunnels are abundant on the bottom of this muddy/rocky bay. They look like eels.

With his mouth open, I could see he is missing one lower canine tooth. Doesn't appear to slow him down at all. How would an otter lose a tooth - fighting? biting down on something really hard? Suggests he's been around the block a few times. North American river otters (Lontra canadensis), live about 8 to 9 years in the wild. I've seen this one for as long as I've been paying attention.

On this day, after the meal, this otter climbed out of the water. We can see his markings clearly as he gives me a look. He's wary but unafraid.

Up onto a ledge, he keeps an eye on the bay while intermittently rolling in the dry dirt. Rolling dries and fluffs fur, distributing waterproofing oils. He's also scent-marking the site and checking out who's been there before. This is a very popular spot for entering and leaving the water; I see otters of all sizes, alone and in groups, climbing out here frequently before disappearing into well-trodden tunnels through the brush in the woods.

This otter is large and on his own right now. Before padding off into the woods, he gives me a view of another feature under the base of his tail which shows why I can conclude he's a he.

There's a boat taking up residence in the bay soon with a step on the stern just perfect for otters to crack open crabs and urchins. I'm waiting to see how they like it ;-)

                                                             ~

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Originally posted to Backyard Science on Sat Aug 23, 2014 at 07:00 AM PDT.

Also republished by Shutterbugs and Community Spotlight.

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