Friday, November 1, 2013

River Otters and a Seal

During a paddle to Blakely Island I hugged the bedrock shoreline of Obstruction Island to observe the bedrock sequence. Most of the island consists of metamorphosed turbidites. These rocks are alternating silt and sandstone layers for the most part that were originally ocean floor sediments deposited by turbidity currents. Lapen (2000) assigned this particular set of turbidites to the Lummi Formation. Garver (1998) proposed calling these rocks the Obstruction Formation but still included them as part of what he termed the the Lummi Group. More on that after I straighten a few things out in my head.

The units along this sequence are tilted such that they made a nice ramp for river otters.

River otter hangout

I did not see any otters at this location, but the well worn otter path is not an uncommon site along the shore. A while back I was on another island discussing access impacts to rocky headland. A concern had been raised regarding ware and tear on vegetation; however, the point already had a well worn otter path and it was soon clear that otters do not use outhouses.

Later during my venture while on shore some otters came to check me out while I made my way along the shoreline. It seemed a bit of role reversal. The animals were gawking at the wildlife (me) and keeping a safe distance from the potential dangerous wild animal ( me gain). I made up a conversation for them. "Don't get so close Fred." "He's not interested in us, he's just looking at the sand and beach and dirt". "I think he's a subspecies - geologist, their the only types out in this weather and this time of year." "Still, stay back. You never know when they'll turn and attack".

River otters keeping an eye on me

I have yet to see any sea otters in the San Juans. The sea otters live full time in the sea. They survive the cold water by having very thick fur and that fur nearly caused there complete extermination via fur hunting starting in the late 1700s and they have not, at least as far as I know made it back to the San Juan Islands.

Later while heading back from Blakely Island, a harbor seal paralleled my course for while with occasional glances at me to be sure I was not getting too close. The seal hauled out on Spindle Island, a small bit of rock that is the San Juan Islands National Wildlife Refuge.

All in all a good field gig.


Geoffrey Middaugh said...

I've often had those same conversations with wildlife, including the biologists favorite: I think we can shoot just one without hurting the population viability. Thanks Gary Larson.

jill i said...

Ha, like this. I saw numerous sea otters while kayaking this past summer up in the Checleset Preserve (Bunsby Islands) up north of Kyuquot Sound on the NW coast of Vancouver Island this summer. Wonderful to watch and hear them whimpering like puppies. They were reintroduced there think in the ..can't remember but a few decades ago, and are doing quite well. Wish they would stray farther south!