River otter returns to San Francisco
They came to see San Francisco's newest star. He's the first river otter seen in the city in decades. They watched as he surfaced his whiskery head furtively, with a mouth full of sea grass. The crowd oohed as large waves pounded rocks just offshore, a briny smell and chill in the air.
The otter ducked back under water and took the sea grass underneath a concrete remnant of the historic baths, where the animal was building a nest.
Beyond tourists, the otter has mystified and delighted conservationists, who are piecing together clues to figure out how he got there. The furry creature was first spotted by birdwatchers in September and has since settled into the City by the Bay.
River otters once thrived in the San Francisco Bay area. But now, development, hunting and environmental pollution in the 19th and 20th centuries has taken its toll on the once thriving local population.
The critters are a living barometer of water quality - if it's bad they cannot thrive. But new populations being seen north and east of San Francisco are giving hope to conservationists that years of environmental regulations and new technologies are making a difference.
"The fact that this otter is in San Francisco and doing so well in other regions of the Bay Area, it's a good message that there's hope for the watershed," said Megan Isadore, director of a group that studies otter populations further north and in the bay.
Critical thinking challenge: Why are scientists excited about this otter?
Define these words: conservationists, thriving
- Posted on January 3, 2013