Recently, we had an amazing encounter with a river otter in the Nanaimo Channel. While we were following the Saysutshun/Newcastle Island shore suddenly a river otter popped up with a crab in her mouth. The crab was still alive and the otter managed to bring it to shore. Then the otter started eating the crab right in front of our kayaks, not even meters away.
Northern River Otters (Lontra Canadensis; the weasel family) are a common sight on kayak tours in Nanaimo and can be found year-round mostly when the tide is low or close to dusk. With their streamlined bodies, rudderlike tails, webbed toes and valved ears and nostrils, river otters are well adapted for aquatic habitats including the BC coastline.
They love to play as well, are social animals, and they frolic together in the water and take turns sliding down banks. The large amounts of playtime they seem to have results from their efficiency at catching prey when it is plentiful. And on the coast there is enough crabs and fish around.
Otters can hold their breath for as long as five minutes and can sprint after their prey with the ease of a seal. When an otter swims quickly, it propels itself mainly with vertical undulations of its body, hindlegs and tail. River otters leave many signs of their presence; the most noticeable are their sliding trails and their scat. Otters always defecate on land and scat is always full of crab scales and fish bones; we see lots of these smelly examples on the nearby docks and floats.
Do not mistake the river otter for a sea otter! River otters are smaller and also like to spend some time on land while the sea otter hardly ever goes to shore. Both otter species were almost hunted to extension due to their thick, beautiful, durable fur pelt.
It is always great to see a Northern River Otter while kayaking and they never seem to be intimidated by our presence. Enjoy the video of our encounter!
Richard Römer likes to roam around on Vancouver Island and creates exceptional adventures on Vancouver Island, the Sunshine Coast, Discovery Islands in British Columbia, Canada