Sutro Sam (take one)

Those of us in the Bay Area who pay attention to such things are aware that a River Otter dubbed “Sutro Sam” has taken up residence at the Sutro Baths. River Otters are fantastic creatures. They are cute, but they can take down Pelicans and pull gulls under the surface… I love that about them, their adorable yet ferocious character.

Sam spends his days in and around the pool, sometimes preening on the grass, sometimes hiding in the rocks. He has gotten pretty familiar with the throngs of visitors and often approaches dogs who are led down into the baths. I heard a tale of one guy who brought his dog down there to play with Sam because he thought the otter was lonely.

Here is a glimpse at those sharp little teeth. Sam eats a lot of fish, but crayfish, amphibians, and birds are also on the menu. Problem is, catching birds is tough, and Sam is a young male who hasn’t quite figured out how to go after the larger prey yet.

Here he is venturing out to try his luck. At Rodeo Lagoon in the Marin Headlands, there is a group of 4 otters (down from 7) that have better luck hunting birds. It is thought that one of the 3 that have disappeared was the most experienced hunter. It wasn’t uncommon to find the carcasses of Pelicans along the shores of the lagoon. I have posted about their predatory predilections HERE.

Is is amazing to watch him glide through the water. The motion is seemingly effortless and highly graceful.

Here he is sneaking up on some Coots. He is a clumsy stalker though and they always seem to get away in plenty of time. One of these days he’ll get it right.

Better settle for some fish instead.

The Great Blue Heron seems to like following Sam around and shows little fear. I bet the fleeing fish make for easy pickings but the relationship could eventually turn sour. The otters in the Headlands have been seen stalking and attempting to catch herons too.

For now, all is peaceful. The heron continues untroubled and Sam continues to delight all those who pay a visit. If you do go down, enjoy the show but respect his space. It is a real priviledge to see a wild River Otter in such close proximity.

Check out the Rodeo Lagoon Otters HERE.

9 responses

  1. Very Nice story.

    December 19, 2012 at 5:38 am

  2. I love otters!! Thanks for sharing!

    December 19, 2012 at 6:57 am

  3. That first photo is amazing. Cute and ferocious is a great combination.

    December 19, 2012 at 10:19 am

  4. Ooh, stalking a Great Blue Heron sounds perilous! I’ve seen them kill and eat ground squirrels. I don’t think one could swallow a river otter, but I do think it could kill it. If Sam is going to go after that, he better get a good bite in fast. He should probably practice on those coots first.

    December 19, 2012 at 10:33 am

  5. Brilliant images, love them.

    December 19, 2012 at 12:57 pm

  6. Glad to see you got over there, Walter. Such a treat to have him in the city. I’m still amazed he hasn’t eaten all the fish in that pond.

    December 19, 2012 at 1:18 pm

  7. awwww, cute otters, they are so playful, they must be really successful crittors to have some much free time and extra energy to play all the time. the herons are beautiful too

    December 19, 2012 at 4:58 pm

  8. Beautiful pictures and fun story along with it! I’ve always loved River Otters, but never knew they could be so feisty!

    December 19, 2012 at 7:14 pm

  9. fotoanna3000

    LIke your photos of the otters! Best regards Anna

    January 6, 2013 at 2:56 am

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