It’s easy to be a little jealous of otters. They have the DNA to juggle rocks, use tools, and play well with each other. They are naturally irresistible.
According to Indigenous beliefs, otters reminds us of the power of play; life is a gift; don’t worry so much; stop fighting the current. Detach from problems, but remain curious to find solutions.
Strong otter themes are: Joy-Creativity-Play.
Northern tribes consider otter sacred because of their devotion to family and social circles.
The otter is the largest member of the weasel family and the smallest marine mammal. They are one of the few adult animals who play. They are also one of the rare mammals to use tools. They can hold a rock in a flap of skin under their arm to use later for cracking shells.
They are always a little hungry and are not vegetarian. They mainly eat fish and small amphibians. They have teeth similar to cats.
River otters have a low tolerance for polluted water, so they signal a good healthy place for all life if they are doing well there.
The relationship between beavers and otters is beneficial for the otter. The beaver does fine without the otter. Otters thrive fishing in the still, ample water created by beaver dams. They can also move into abandoned beaver lodges - safe and cozy waterfront locations.
Beavers and otters have thick luxurious coats, which unfortunately led to uncontrolled trapping, reducing both animals dramatically. There are about 13 types of otter and at least five of them are endangered - mostly because of habitat destruction, pollution, and poaching.
If the subject of poaching comes up in casual conversation, always show good ethics and speak out against it.
Oregon has no sea otters as they were hunted to extinction by 1907. Marine biologists are looking into how to return otters to our coast, but it’s complicated as they need a clean environment and enough food sources to keep a healthy weight. Fishing and crabbing industries also want to make a living catching seafood. How can we share our resources?
Oregon’s river otters are more common west of the cascade range, though there are some in eastern Klamath county, Deschutes, Wallowa, and Malheur counties.
Sea otters hold the title of being a keystone species, like beavers, because they help regulate ocean plants and animals, which improves the ecosystem.
Remember, keep it tidy for ourselves, our neighbors, our planet. For example, don’t flush cat litter or any hazardous chemicals- they make otters sick.
Let’s try and be a keystone species like the sea otter and beaver.
Keystone: a species on which other species largely depend; so much so that their removal weakens the ecosystem.
-Mary Ann Petersen, Guest Blogger
Mary Ann is a writer living in Eugene, Oregon. In a past life she may have been a beaver. If not, she was definitely a kingfisher or a crow.