Spotting marine mammals in the Salish Sea is certainly a highlight of any charter vacation. The animal that immediately comes to most people’s minds is the resident orcas that call this region home. There are, however, opportunities throughout the islands to spot some of the smaller marine mammals that live in and around the local waters. For example, there is a good chance that you’ll spot a river otter during your charter if you are near a quiet and secluded shoreline. River otters are small, charismatic member of the weasel family that live along rocky shores. Adult river otters are typically 4-5′ in length and weigh roughly 30 lbs. Males are slightly larger than females. They have dark brown fur that is lighter on the belly, throat, and cheeks. Their long, thick whiskers look amusingly large compared to their small heads. They also have webbed feet. Their most identifiable feature, however, is their long, slender tail, which can be up to 1/3 of the animal’s overall length! River otters live in groups consisting of a mother and her many offspring. Sometimes these family groups will join other families to make large groups, but adult and juvenile males are almost always solitary.
If you’re lucky enough to find a group of river otters, you could be entertained by them for hours if you are so inclined. They are very playful and communicative. You may hear them whistling, growing, or chuckling while hunting or wrestling with their siblings. River otters are opportunistic feeders and will eat both aquatic and terrestrial animals, an unusual trait amongst marine mammals.