Shy resident

River otters (Lontra canadensis) are one of those subjects that everyone likes, but don't show up in my stock very often, since they're difficult critters to observe. The image above, I have to admit, was taken at the NC Zoo in Asheboro, as was the underwater shot at bottom. That expression can be blamed on being in mid-yawn, but you're welcome to tell me what it looks like.

The only place I've been where they could be found dependably was in Florida, where one would actually visit the pond in the center of the apartment complex every once in a great while. A V-shaped ripple attracted my attention one morning and I watched the otter disappear into a drainage culvert that I knew went nowhere. When it reappeared, I was waiting with the camera, and snagged one frame as it looked at me in horror and made a beeline for the overflow pipe that had provided its initial access. A bit later on I was able to observe one happily munching on a fish in the middle of the lawn, and now I knew what had been opening up the freshwater mussels that inhabited the pond, leaving the empty shells dotting the shallows of the shoreline.

I had caught a fleeting glimpse of one as it crossed a road in the Everglades, many years previously during a photo trip, and while I lived there I would occasionally find the signs of their presence, such as a set of tracks across a sandbar or the peculiar path that they make while dragging a heavy fish back home to the burrow (that's a challenge for anyone learning tracking.) But they appear to be quite shy, and I was never able to find a spot where they appeared routinely, which is often what it takes to obtain a collection of decent images. So far in North Carolina I haven't located any, even though they can be found more or less throughout North America. I'm still trying.