Otter tales

I can easily find connections between what happens with Grace and what happens in everyday human interactions. But my awareness doesn’t always stop with her. Nature is a wonderland for learning efficient and effective communication skills.

Grace and I went for a walk this past Sunday morning. I chose a trail we’ve been on before, a gorgeous wooded path that winds next to a river. She’s at her best in the woods – gleefully running, jumping, darting, spinning, and occasionally pausing for a quick slurp of water.

As we neared the spot where I planned to turn around, there was a fork in the trail, with the main path continuing up a little hill to the right. A short dead-end path led down to the river to my left. I decided to head towards the river, admiring the rushing waters for a minute before turning back. Grace had already started up ahead on the main path.

As I took my third step towards the river, I saw a black, sleek animal coming towards me. My first thought was a beaver? No, it was an otter. I immediately took my eyes off it in order to locate Grace. She hadn’t seen him yet.

Startled when he saw me, the animal made an immediate U-turn and started briskly in the opposite direction. Grace heard the noise, or maybe caught his scent, and headed in his direction. Oh no. Not good. But I couldn’t help noticing that Grace was hardly running at all, going at a very slow pace trailing him, so she had absolutely no interest in catching him. She was just curious.

I lost sight of them both as they headed over and beyond the crest of the hill. A full minute passed and I never heard one bark from Grace. Or squeals from either one of them. I wasn’t sure what to expect next, and thankfully, about then, I could see Grace jogging towards me, content with whatever happened between the two of them. I would have loved to witness how they parted ways. Grace could surely have caught him; and otters are known for being playful. What did they silently say to each other?

That very night, my husband was flipping through the channels during a commercial break of the Sunday night football game, and oddly, there was a piece on otters. What are the chances of that??

This segment (on Discovery, National Geographic or Animal Planet channel, can’t remember which one) was showing how a group of otters had come together to aggressively protect one otter from an alligator! Just by virtue of their combined noisy racket and commotion, the alligator was forced away. Imagine this small 30-lb animal having the guts to think they could prevent an 800-lb animal from attacking. And they did. The narrator said something akin to “Now that’s teamwork!”

I would have to agree. Imagine what you can accomplish when you enlist the help of your friends. Lessons from nature’s creatures, whether alone or together, can be a simple as knowing how to appropriately say good-bye or as complex as saving a life. (And if anyone is wondering, we don’t have alligators in New Hampshire; this show was about a different type of otter. Grace certainly wasn’t as threatening as an alligator.)

What’s the moral of this story? You otter know you can handle what’s around the corner.

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7 comments

  1. didiwright says:

    What a lovely story, Robin! Brilliantly told, too, I could clearly picture you and Grace rambling around in my mind. I love otters, they used to be quire rare in our parts until not long ago, and the Environment Agency were asking everyone to report any encounter with otters so that they can track them down and help them survive in a changing environment.
    I agree that animals, even those of different species, have their way of communicating which, unfortunately we can’t fully comprehend. I, too, would love to know what Grace and her new water friend had to say to each other. Whatever it was, bumping into each other it must have been a great experience for both of them, if Grace came back smiling.
    Love the moral of the story 😀

  2. Otters are some of my favorites. I always feel very lucky when I come across one, or even better a group of one frolicking together in the shallows and on the shores of my local waterways. A very fun animal to watch. I am happy that the encounter between Grace and the otter was a positive one that they could hopefully both enjoy

    • It seems you have a greater opportunity to see this fun animals playing — how wonderful! My guess is that the otter didn’t like having visitors, but I think he knew that Grace wasn’t going to hurt him. She so timid herself, I was actually surprised she followed him as freely as she did. Perhaps she knew she could outrun him in the opposite direction if he turned. It was something very amazing about how they communicated — knowing their limits and how to exit the conversation gracefully. That’s something us humans aren’t always that good at.

  3. LeeAnn says:

    It does not surprise me that you and I have such a similar interest in animals. We have otters here too and I love seeing them. We typically see them in lagoons (where there are gators as well) and often see otter families (or what appears to be families) playing and swimming. They seem so joyful. Love the moral!!

    • Good question — we returned there this past weekend and I was curious whether Grace would go directly for the spot, but she didn’t. She didn’t seem cautious around that area either, so I guess that’s a sign that they departed on good terms! And I wonder if the otter is on a higher alert, though it is a marked trail and while not heavily used, people definitely go by it. It’s would be cool to have a webcam there!

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