There are moments in time and place where paths and trails, less trampled by foot, give way to a realm of magic that once seen is never forgot. A watershed where mountains give life to rivers and trees grow sparse among rocks formed by ancient ice flows.
Pure, clear water flows down and down to places where bees buzz lazily in the afternoon sun, dragging their hum from flower to flower. Butterflies sing on a zephyr’s wing. Here light and shade vibrate in tune like the strum of a harp string and the wood is alive to every living thing. With only each other to attend, birds call a cheery tune, and the water flows betwixt and between a crack in the rock, pooling under a wooden bridge.
Only the most observant eye sees in and out of shadows, a darting through a lacework of branches, a scampering along a fallen log, a zip–zap across the stream and then gone, but not really. Shy but playful glossy creature of the meandering river and its brackish inlets, equally happy in water as on land and a skilled hunter in both.
Slender, long serpentine body with a thick tapering tale ending in short, stubby legs. This agile master of games and play is all twisting, turning, swimming and sliding. The happiest instigator of follow-my-leader tag, along riverbanks and through shafts of light, in any wooded glade.
The keeper of a warm and comfy den close to the water. Could be under tree root, rock pile, logs or thickets. Two entrances: one above water, for patrol, the other, under water for coming and going. A culvert, half hidden in the undergrowth performs the task of lookout, concourse and occasional bolt-hole for the enterprising Otter. Food always a closely guarded resource but game is game.
The River Otter lives the good life, a top predator in it’s domain, but that life is always lived in the very real and long shadow of danger -mostly from the ever encroaching development and presence of an even greater predator - mankind.
Life in the Northern California watershed is a shared proposition. The system is complex and easily unbalanced. The return of the charismatic River Otter, ambassador to our watershed, is a beacon of hope to encourage continuing wetland restoration and conservation. Balancing this fragility is the responsibility of us all.