One day, when I was still only 4 months old, Leslie took me and Soona to a pond. We still lived in a suburb near San Francisco, so this pond was not really natural. Nearby were the bay area wetlands. Next to these wetlands was a big golf course. And by the golf course was an old World War II missile site on a small hilltop. The missiles were no longer there, but the hill had been flattened and covered with concrete. The pond lay between the golf course below and the hilltop above. The Open Space Ranger told us that when the people dug into the hillside to place the missiles underground, they hit a spring which created the pond.
Leslie, Soona, and I walked along the hillside and down to this beautiful pond full of cattails. Swallows were flying all around catching bugs. They’d made their nests on the concrete undersides of the nearby water treatment holding tanks. On the trail down, we found a big snake. And I mean big. Leslie picked it up and said it was a King snake. I wasn’t scared, just curious. Kingsnake
When we got to the pond, Soona jumped in and started swimming. At first I was afraid. I thought I didn’t know how to swim. I really wanted to swim with Soona, so little by little I went further and further out. And you know what? I found out that I could swim without even one lesson.
Swimming is really fun and Leslie threw sticks and balls for Soona to catch. While Soona was busy with her balls, I saw a head of some animal pop up in the water. Then as suddenly as it appeared, it disappeared. I swam to where I saw this head. It popped up again, but this time in another part of the pond. I really wanted to catch that head, but as soon as I got close, it disappeared.
What was this animal? It was a river otter. The otter and I played ‘hide and seek’; he would pop up, I’d swim to him, but just as I got there, he’d disappear. Then I’d look all around the pond, and he would pop his head up somewhere else. We played this fun game until the otter disappeared for good and did not come up for air.
This otter had a friend. They were eating crayfish in the pond. Leslie said that every year the two otters traveled from the wetlands across the golf course to the pond. They came for only one week, ate all the crayfish they could find, then traveled back to the wetlands.
I found their crayfish shell leftovers on the rocks by the pond. They were messy eaters and left a lot of otter scat next to their shells. It all smelled very interesting, but I wish they’d left some of those little lobsters for me to eat too.
Leslie’s Note: You can see River Otters in Yellowstone National Park. The best place to catch a glimpse is at Trout Lake, a short hike near the Northeast Entrance. River Otters are in the weasel family and are very playful. They can hold their breath for up to three minutes underwater. They eat fish, crayfish, and frogs.