Otters Swim by

There was a time when otters were gone from Missouri rivers. Some people wish this was still the case as they eat lots of fish and crawdads.

The Meramec River is a half mile up the road from this place. It’s pretty small here and ignored by most big fish and creatures.

Our creek is even smaller. During dry weather the flow sinks down into the gravel so there is a series of pools. The fish are small minnows, darters and madtoms mostly in the inch to four inch range. A few minnows make it to six inches long.

Ozark creek in dry weather

When rain is scarce, the creek sinks down into the gravel leaving a series of pools. Even big minnows have trouble swimming around except in a few of the bigger, deeper pools like the one around the bridge piers.

When the creek sinks into the gravel, the fish become trapped. Many die. The crawdads feast and raise baby crawdads. They get big, six inches long, and fat.

Crawdads dig burrows down into the water table. They survive the low water times.

Under the circumstances, the last creatures I would expect to see in the creek are otters. Raccoons, opossums, snapping turtles, yes. Otters, no.

otters by creek bridge

Three river otters worked their way up from the river. Each deep pool was a buffet of minnows and crawdads.

Yet three otters did arrive at our plank bridge across the creek. They swam around in the pool around the cement piers and found a hollowed out place under a cement slab anchoring one pier.

For an hour or two there were sounds of big rocks plunking over, bubbling chirps, a growl or two, crunching and splashing. Heads poked up one by one through a hole and disappeared again.

otters look around

The otters found a great place to hunt crawdads. Every so often a head came up to check out the area and get a deep breath of air.

Finally the otters came out again. They climbed up on the bank and dropped back into the creek. Then they moved on, returning to the river.

The rains came. The creek is flowing again. Now would be a better time for these sleek visitors to stop in. At least that is my opinion.

Down in the creek the minnows and crawdads are getting back into their normal routines. They didn’t much enjoy their visitors and hope they don’t return.