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Otter Love

Tuesday, January 13, 2009

It was clear to me, on watching Diane McTurk interact with the two otters (giant Amazon and Neotropical river) she had raised, that her affection for them runs every bit as deep as mine for my beloved Chet Baker. In raising and releasing these animals, Diane runs a gamut of emotions. Giant Amazon otters are territorial, and though they are endlessly tolerant of family members, they will sometimes kill interlopers. In fact, a lone male giant otter had come to Karanambu and killed at least one of her orphans. Having raised quite a few young songbirds, I know how tough it can be to raise a young thing up, only to see it killed just as it's learning how to live.

We spent a few minutes watching Diane with her otters just before departing Karanambu. Her face glowed with affection as she spoke lovingly to them. They seemed to adore her equally. After all, she was their mom!I noticed that she took more liberties with the Neotropical river otter than the giant otter. In this picture, you can see why the Neotropical river otter (the closest to Diane) is Lontra longicauda (long-tail). Diane sneaks a caress of the giant otter while he's occupied.After my minor perforation, I wasn't scratching nobody under the chin, but I had a hard time keeping my hands off the unbelievably silky fur of the otters. Don't try this unless you're the otter's mama. 

Oh, how I missed my Bacon, doubtless stretched frog-legged on the bed at home in Ohio. I kind of missed my scorpion-free bed, too.Canis turdicauda, the Tennessee Turd-tail, at rest.

While we're on tails, look at the giant otter's amazing appendage. His Latin generic name is Pteronura, or "feather tail," referring to its flattened aspect. The central "vane" of vertebrae only adds to the tail's feather-like appearance. It's much like a caiman's tail, and it makes a fine propeller in water.

The river otter wanted to be in the boat to take the sun with his giant pal.

Longicauda helped himself. What does he do with all that tail?And was soon routed by Mr. Giant Bossy Boots (looking very much like a sea lion here) who wanted the boat to himself.

Both otters then repaired to shore, where they rolled over and over in the warm sand. Their fur dried amazingly fast. A very dense, silky underfur traps air and prevents water from ever reaching their skin.

In just a few minutes, the sand and the hot Guyanan sun turned this slick little river otter into a living teddy bear.
Is it any wonder that so many of us love otters?   And their tiny otter junk?Throughout all our interactions, the giant Amazon otter never ceased to vocalize. To imagine how he sounded, squinch your vocal cords all up and imitate a crying baby, pushing the sound through your nose. Waaaa! Weeee! Weeeeyyyyyyewwwww! Weh!!

I want, I want, I want!

If he doesn't favor a baby elephant seal here, I'm a monkey's uncle.

Our last view of Diane, standing on the dock at Karanambu Ranch, looking after her otters.


Otter porn!
Boy, they really are changelings, the way they morph into semblances of their pinniped cousins.
Wait--last look at Diane?!?
no mo otters now?

crazy otter lady Wendi

great pics of the Guyana furry critters, but gotta admit my favorite of the bunch is still frog-legged Chet stretched out oblivious to the world (does he even know Mether is missing?)

Hello. I came across your blog while reading the "I And The Bird". But as a mammal-lover myself, I can't but help love these blogs and photos on these beautiful otters. Must be an exhilarating experience. And thank you for sharing it with us.

I hope you'll come back and see us, PSYL. I love it all, not just birds, though they hold an exalted place in my heart.

I got so hung up on the Chet photo that I barely made it to the otter pics beneath that. And then I went back to Chet. Now that's comfort in a carefree style!

But the otters... Oh my. They are beautiful. The want to snuggle up with one is a dangerous dilemma--as you've already experienced. Yet that scratch under the chin looks like pure delight.

Thanks for sharing this experience, Julie.

And something else: I remember seeing a nature special about Diane some years ago before I gave up television. I thought then how cool it would be to visit her and her otters; you brought that experience to me, even if vicariously. Thank you!

Wendi--tiny otter porn! And I'm not quite quite done with giant otters yet. One more. In some ways, best of all, though I do love the pictures in this post. Yes, they are changelings--so seallike! And reptomammalian! Floridacracker and I will create a dictionary of bio- neologisms one of these days.

Cyberthrush, I distinctly remember a couple of occasions where you stated that you don't come here for the dog. Has Chet Baker won your heart? His mother Chili, age 5 and about to be retired, just had her last litter yesterday...I can fix you up...Anyone else for a Baker relative? I'm sorely tempted myself.

Jason, Looking at and listening to Diane, I sensed that a person like her comes along only once in a very long while. I treasure the opportunity to have met her. I'm off TV, too, but will indulge in American Idol auditions tonight. I tell myself it's a bonding thing with my kids.

Oh goodness, Julie, those otter pictures made my heart melt. So cute, climbing into the boat. So cute, getting scritched under the chinny-chin. And then.... otter tummy!!! Gack! I can't stand it anymore. You just beat out CuteOverload by a landslide! I'm sorry to hear you got bitten. Guess otter isn't as much of an attention junkie as, say, Chet Baker, who I'm sure would take pettings from anyone willing to dish it out to him.

Almost makes one think giant otters are a kind of missing link--connecting to so many animals, at least in appearance. . .not talking DNA here.
Such a wonderfully informative and entertaiing post. And to top it all off, a Baker frog-dog shot.
Love it.

Smiles all throughout. A lovely story of Diane. What an honor it was to have met her.

I can certainly understand why your were missing home sweet home.

Thanks for sharing great stuff!

Oh, I'm off to see American Idol and bond with my husband. He's more excited about the show than I am!

Love, love the otters. And the frog-legged Baker exacts a smile every single time.

But, for me, your images of Diane transcend the whole story. In some ways they are the story - I've come back to them several times before coming here. I love that even though you are a gifted writer, you know when to let the photo tell the story. She reminds me very much of the famous Kenyan wildlife advocate Joan Root, whom I met once while working anti-poaching detail from her home. I hope Diane's story ends better than Joan's. Thanks for introducing us to this remarkable woman.

"Cyberthrush, I distinctly remember a couple of occasions where you stated that you don't come here for the dog...."

er...uhhh...well... ya see, I don't come here for the dog... but, sometimes, once I'm here, well, he sorta pulls me in further
(truth-be-told, I'm just jealous that I don't look that irresistable when I'm asleep :-(

What wonderful critters. They do seem pretty pennipemorphic in your pics!

Floridacracker, did you mean pinnepemorphic, which would mean "like a pinneped?"

Or perhaps you mean they are like pasta, after all, for they are tubular in shape.

I am but a simple ape, and your new words confuse me.

Mare, I'm hoarse from howling at A.I. I mean, howling, all four of us on the couch slapping each other.

Oh, the memories! When I majored in Wildlife Biology at Ohio State (several centuries ago), I was photographed with my adviser and his two river otters for the cover of a pamphlet on the Honors Program. He kept the otters for "research," but I recognized beloved pets when I saw them.

What a once in a lifetime day Julie. :c) So very cool that you got to experience meeting Diane and her babies.

Wow! Up close and personal with otters! You hadn't otter stop...

Now you've done it, you've made them cute and pet-able. In previous photos they looked like serpents, here they do look like baby seals. Very cute.

You know, I think I saw Diane on the Jeff Corwin show a few years. Doesn't she call to the otters. I have in my head hearing her voice, calling them by name and calling, "Come, come, my horrible creatures."

Wonderful otter photos. And thanks for the link to ARKive.

Do you know the book Tarka the Otter by Henry Williamson? He was an amateur naturalist who followed otters around for years and wrote this book from the otters' viewpoint. Sad, but fascinating.

It's below zero, and we're getting another 5 inches of snow today. I cannot tell you how much I enjoyed this post. :)

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