Float Away Baby

I took another walk down to the pier to observe the otters, and was heartened to see how dedicated the mother otters are to their pups. Mother otters are called bitches or sows and the males are called dogs or boars. Whoever came up with those names? They look nothing like pigs, and even less like dogs… The collective noun is bevy or family.  The bevy of sea otters in the bay at the marina, appear to be females with their offspring of varying ages, accompanying them. I watched one attentive mother fall sound asleep while her pup became detached from her and started to float slowly away toward the pier. Both of them were on their backs and neither realized that they had become separated. The pup was oblivious and bobbing in the gentle salt water about 10 feet away when I heard the mother start to purr loudly, and hum even louder when there was no response. She then looked up and all around with a startled look on her face in search of her pup. She finally let out a bark of alarm when she realized just how far her baby had floated away. The pup had no idea it was going to be in trouble because it was sound asleep. When the mother reached her sleeping pup, she let out another annoyed bark and grabbed it by the nape of the neck and dragged it rather roughly back to the safety of the group. She disciplined it with a quick bite and a stern shake, and the poor pup let out a shrill squeak while trying to desperately wake up and make sense of the nightmare that was unfolding. When the two of them reached the perimeter of the group, she cuddled it adoringly and stroked its fur, while whispering sweet nothings in its ear. In response to the kindness, it started to nurse appreciatively and peace was once again restored. But it wasn't long before they started to nod off again, in unison, with the sun pouring down like warm butterscotch over their sleepy bodies. This time they both held on to each other tightly and did not let go. I counted 18 mothers with their young pups nursing and being groomed lovingly on their bellies, while the mothers bobbed gently on their backs. All of them were enjoying a quiet afternoon on a beautiful sunny day. The fog didn't roll in until after lunch and it was such an idyllic setting. As I have said before in an earlier post, otters were hunted for their lush fur almost to the point of extinction, and it is so touching to see that the mother otters have discovered the marina as a safe nursery site to raise their young.

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