Halfway down the peaceful Skagit River, a sudden splash tugs your attention shoreward Is it a bear? Another raft? Will you finally get proof that sasquatch is real? You scan the shoreline, adrenaline racing, and finally spot the culprits: a pair of river otters bobbing gently up and down. These playful otters find their home in our calmer rivers, and can put on quite the show for our rafters.
River Otters are semi-aquatic. This means that they can thrive both in and out of water. While their main food source, fish, lives in the water, they prefer to live in tunnels underground with many pathways, some leading to exits above ground, and others leading directly into the river. This diverse combination has given them some very unique characteristics. Despite needing air to breathe, they have the ability to survive underwater for eight minutes straight! Their nostrils have evolved to completely shut on command to keep the water out of their lungs. Their webbed feet help them swim quickly and efficiently in the water, and help them move swiftly on land as well. Their silky coats serve a dual purpose, keeping them warm in the year-round chill of our mountain riversand providing a smooth surface perfect for sliding down snow banks or muddy shores.
You are most likely to catch them hunting in the evening, when their prey is abundant and available and they feel safe from predators. Though river otters are social animals, they are most often sighted on their own or with their partner rather than in large groups. Though sightings in the mountains near Seattle are rare, they are not unheard of; the Sauk and Snoqualmie rivers are the farthest from civilization and probably your best bet for an otter sighting. Be on the lookout near the riverbanks and small puddles lining the river.
While these cute critters can seem playful with each other, they do not always react well to humans. If you find you find yourself near a river otter, please do not try to interact with it. They are wild animals no matter how cute they are, and should be treated with appropriate caution. Enjoy the gentle atmosphere they provide, and watch from the safety of your raft.
To try your luck at catching a glimpse of the North American River Otter, book a whitewater rafting trip with Triad River Tours today!