I spotted a river otter feeding in a stormwater outfall this week in the Woodlake area of the lower American River Parkway (directly across the river from SLP). The otter was diving under floating aquatic vegetation and other features under murky water conditions that didn't seem to bother it. I wasn't able to get a decent photo then but was able to relocate the animal on my way back about an hour later. These animals frequently travel considerable distances to locate areas like this that can temporarily provide enough the food required by their high levels of activity.
River Otter Sighting in the American River Parkway
The River Otter Ecology Project has been studying this fascinating member of the weasel family for years. Unfortunately, many otters are killed trying to cross busy roads, including mothers with young animals. I've seen this on the Yolo Causeway and Cosumnes Preserve areas previously. This is one of many reasons to be concerned about maintaining and improving wildlife connectivity. Habitat in places like the American River Parkway have a lot of value in providing areas to forage as well as roam between areas.
There are so many reasons to care about wildlife connectivity, and here’s some good news. Along with the help of the Center for Biological Diversity and fellow supporters, AB 2344, the Safe Roads and Wildlife Protection Act, passed with bipartisan support and was signed by Governor Newsom. We need to continue working to push California to improve wildlife connectivity, for river otters and all species. This new legislation helps but there is still a long way to go. One thing that helps is knowing where otters are seen.
The River Otter Ecology Project encourages everyone to record sightings of otters in their tracking application. Please record them on Otter Spotter (you can do it from your phone). The only requirement is to zoom in as far as you can when you pin the map location, or the sighting doesn’t register properly. The technology collects photos only, but emailing a video to them is always welcome. The project has literally changed the range map for river otters in California, which has very real effects. They've made a story map explaining to whom it matters and why.