Posted by: pilgrm34 | September 28, 2011

river otter tracks

September 24, 2011

My friend, Laura Feldman, joins me on pilgrimage to the untamed half of Hayden Island. The beach, a different one, exhibits yachter’s artifacts: a rusted lawn chair listing to one side, a cardboard box filled with firewood, remnants of a tent, and a mattress. The debris of civilization even here. The morning mist burns off leaving the nearby Columbia River aglitter with reflected sun rays

The sand reveals fresh deer tracks—small and large. They hop over fallen cottonwoods and disappear up embankments. A new track appears alongside them, with a hand-like outline, larger than raccoon and longer digits. After walking a half mile, we spot a clear set on the dry sand with a wide squiggly pattern in between. They cross from bank to the water line. While contemplating the pattern, I am astonished to realize it is that of a river otter! The squiggle is the trace of its belly. I reflect on the novelty of it. It is rare to see one, or even trace of one, but this beach is more remote than the others.

photo from Washington Dept. Fish and Wildlife

River otter have disappeared or are rare through most of their range. They are three to four feet long and weigh 11 to 30 pounds and can live about 8 or 9 years in the wild. Even today, they are hunted for their fur. Otters search for food at night. Fish are a favorite, but they also eat amphibians, turtles, and crayfish (


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