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Wednesday, May 10, 2017

Not a drift log

I was driving along Westshore Road at the north end of Bodega Harbor this morning when an unusual silhouette in the water caught my eye.  I said to myself, "Hmmm...I don't think that's a drift log."

Sea otters (Enhydra lutris) are rare in the Bodega Bay area, so I stopped to take a few pictures:

The otter was resting while floating on its back:


Eventually it swam (with a corkscrew motion) further from shore.  Here's a picture with the Spud Point Marina in the background:

This is the third sea otter I've seen in the Bodega Bay region (during the past 12 years).  The first was near the harbor entrance in December 2006; and the second was found dead (from a shark attack) on Salmon Creek Beach in September 2011.  [We also heard about one photographed from a sailboat in Bodega Bay in April 2015.]

Who knows if sea otters will ever become established in this area again, but for now it's always fun to see them whenever they wander this way.


Hank Birnbaum said...

Thanks, Jackie!
Can we name that ambassador "Hope"? (Or Надежда?!)

liz said...


For whatever it may be worth, two sea otters photographed on the dock at Doran Beach in February 2015. I'd not realised they were so uncommon around Bodega although I'd never seen them in some forty years of visiting.

Sorry, dunno if I can actually send the photo in the comments section but this ought to open in a browser.

Jackie Sones said...

Hi, Liz!

Nice photo! Thanks so much for the link. This is a great comparison, as the otters in your picture are river otters, not sea otters.

River otters tend to look sleeker than sea otters, and river otters have a *much* longer tail than sea otters. Also, if you see them in the water, sea otters tend to spend quite a bit of time floating on their backs, while river otters don't. If you see their hind feet, sea otters have more substantial webbing compared to river otters.

The identification can be confusing at first simply based on habitat -- some folks haven't seen river otters in salt water, but river otters can spend a lot of time in ocean. So when you see an otter in salt water, take a look for the features mentioned above to figure out which species it is.

:) Jackie

liz said...

Thanks, Jackie. Now you mention it, these critters I photographed don't look much like sea otters. Duh. For that matter I've not seen a lot of river otters at Bodega, either.

:) Liz

brent said...

YES for otters! I thought I spied one 20 years ago kayaking of Porto Bodega Marina area, but it was a quick look and I know that is an area where a river otter could be... but I was quite used to seeing sea otters from living in Morro Bay for a few years. Hopefully the furry buddy sticks around a while!

Jackie Sones said...

Hi, Brent!

Thanks for the additional observation. I've heard from several people about other possible sea otter sightings near Bodega Bay and Tomales Bay. It seems like individuals stray to this area every now and then. Maybe one year it'll be two otters rather than one and they'll stick around. Who knows?

:) Jackie