Filled with curiosity and playfulness, river otters are charismatic animals with an important role to play as an apex predator in riparian ecosystems. They are a key species for signaling the health of a watershed – watching the health of river otter populations can reveal much about the overall health of their habitat.
River otters nearly disappeared from the San Francisco Bay Area, and were rarely sighted for many decades. More and more, there are signs of otter activity along the banks of lagoons, creeks and streams, and even urban lakes around the Bay Area. However, not much is known about them – at least not yet.
No one really knows how many river otters once called the Bay Area home, nor what kind of decline they experienced. They were just simply gone. It is no wonder then, that the first otter sighted in San Francisco made such a splash. Sutro Sam, as he was nicknamed, was the first of his kin to take up residence within the city limits in over 50 years. His timing was particularly serendipitous: just before he showed up, a new nonprofit was launched, which is taking a closer look at river otter recovery.
The River Otter Ecology Project is the first project to examine river otter population, health, behavior and ecology within the Central Coast watershed. ROEP hopes to highlight the link between the return of healthy otter populations and the quality of local watersheds, and encourage support and conservation for healthy riparian habitats.
I am following the team and documenting their research and survey work, their community education, and of course the river otters they monitor in the Bay Area.
Follow the visual story of this and other river otter populations.