I went to Marsh Creek Saturday morning to participate in the Oakley Earth Day & Mormon Helping Hands Day event with Friends of Marsh Creek Watershed to help clean up the creek. (Directed by The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, Mormon Helping Hands is a program to provide community service and disaster relief to those in need.) But instead of picking up garbage I followed this otter as it enjoyed itself swimming and dining in Marsh Creek.
Otters were once found in almost every creek and lake in Northern California, but their numbers seriously dwindled until the 1970s because of hunting, habitat loss and pollution. Particularly harmful was mercury, which seeped into the crayfish, clams, mussels and other shellfish that otters dine on.
But the federal Clean Water Act of 1972, California environmental laws, antihunting regulations and open space preservation have helped make the waterways more hospitable for otters. They’re still threatened, but they appear to be rebounding
Although relatively common in the Sacramento-San Joaquin River Delta, I’ve never seen one here.
River Otters have long, slender bodies, short limbs, and a short face, plus a set of adaptations for their aquatic lifestyle: an oily, waterproof coat, webbed toes, and small external ears. River Otters are good swimmers and divers, able to stay underwater for up to eight minutes. They feed on crayfish, crabs, fish, birds, small mammals, and some aquatic plants.