That snow otter

An otter in the snow. Just another day in Vancouver 🙂 I watched this otter for several minutes as it rolled and played in the snow, and was surprised at how close I was able to get.

I’ve seen otters a couple of times in False Creek – once I was able to get quite close to one munching away on a fish. I wouldn’t have seen this one had it not been for the nearby crows dive-bombing something at the water’s edge, hidden from view by the rocky embankment. Most people were just walking by, but the crows had me wandering over to take a closer look.

The otter and I saw each other at the same time. The crows fled and the otter dove beneath the water, coming up a few metres later for a moment before diving again and disappearing. I was kicking myself for being slow with the camera (and not having the faster-responding SLR), and thought that would be the last I saw of it. I watched it surface again around the corner and then it hauled out onto the snow-covered dock near the coastguard station. I took some (distant) video from here and then wondered how close I might be able to get.

As it turned out, much closer than I expected. I was able to walk along the dock almost to the last part where the otter was rolling in the snow. I stopped by one of the uprights and took more video and a few photos. It was only when my phone rang and I began speaking that the otter looked up, saw me and slunk off again into the water. A pretty good encounter in my books!

Here’s the final video:

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Otters

A trio of otters swimming around Stanley Park.

Everyone loves otters. They’re so cute. Except they’re not really. But everyone still likes seeing them.

I’ve seen a few around Vancouver, and remember watching one devour a fish near Kits Point. I was struck by the crunching noises as it chomped its way through that fish. But my sightings had always been single otters – until this day back in 2011 when we saw these three swimming along the seawall in Stanley Park, heading towards Vancouver harbour. We first caught sight of them rolling and playing in the kelp beds near Brockton Point, but as soon as they spotted us they took off and started swimming. I was a bit slow getting the camera on them, and this photo is more distant than it should have been (it’s heavily cropped for the Instagram version). We watched them for a minute or two until they were too far away.

W-otter view!

A pleasant Monday evening and I fancied a walk on the beach. Again. I headed for Kits Beach mostly to see for myself the efforts to free a small boat that had blown ashore in a recent storm. The Tuesday Sunrise was indeed still high-and-dry and half a dozen people were digging out a trench on the beach to enable water to flow around the boat at the next high tide.

Kits Beach, 19 Apr 2010

I felt a bit self-conscious taking photos while they were working so hard (I’m not a great people photographer) so I wandered off down the beach a little further before heading over towards the Maritime Museum. I normally avoid the dog beach but tonight I walked along it, having watched the antics of dogs and owners from up on the path. One dog took exception to me and barked from close quarters. I did my best to ignore it and kept walking, which seemed to work. I spotted a seal about 30 metres off shore and climbed the rocks up onto the path hoping for a better view. I passed the time watching the cormorants zip by close to the water, and soon gave up on the seal.

I walked to the end of the point and watched a pair of cormorants fishing. A heron flew over, squawked and landed on a nearby pile at the small marina (with the little Viking longship). Movement in the water caught my eye, and I watched a dark drown shape swim towards me. An otter! It lifted its head above the water, spotted me, and turned to head over to the dock. I snapped a couple of photos but the low light and movement made them blurry. But it was a treat seeing it at all.

With the daylight fading, I figured it was time to head back home. Walking round to the other side of the marina I saw a dark shape on the shore. Could it be? Yes – it was the otter, and it was feeding. I moved slowly along the path until I was alongside, the otter no more than 10 metres away. I took a few more photos and a minute or so of video. I reviewed what I’d taken and wondered if I could get closer. I moved round the corner onto the grass and crept towards the edge of the bank. I peered down over the rocks and there not more than 5 m away was the otter and the sizeable fish it was feasting on.

Kits Point, 19 Apr 2010

I took as many photos as I could, and more video. Chomp, chomp, crunch, crunch – I worry about encountering fish bones, but the otter had no such problem devouring the whole lot. Head, tail and everything in between. We locked eyes for a moment, then it turned and swam off. I looked up and saw the city, and thought how amazing it is to live in such a place.