Video & Photos: Wild otter stops by Sutro Baths

Our neighborhood nature photog David Cruz is at it again, this time happening upon a wild otter who stopped by Sutro Baths this morning for a little R&R. He makes the most of the morning sun.


Sarah B.

Photo by Natures Lantern – David Cruz

Photo by Natures Lantern – David Cruz

Photo by Natures Lantern – David Cruz

Photo by Natures Lantern – David Cruz


  1. Fabulous video David!

    But, I don’t think it was a sea otter based on the fur, body shape, and the amount of time it spent on land during the video. River otters often hunt in brackish waterways and are known to hang out along deltas and other marine areas. Considering the close proximity to the mouth of SF bay, this is probably a river otter.

    Source: http://animaldiversity.ummz.umich.edu/accounts/Lontra_canadensis/

  2. Thanks for the note, mel. Technically David just called it a wild otter so “sea otter” was my label, not his. 🙂

    Sarah B.

  3. Neat! I wonder if we have any otters elsewhere in San Francisco’ parks (our streams and lakes are fairly limited), or did it swim here from some larger wildland (such as Rodeo Lagoon in the Marin Headlands)? Which sounds possible from what Mel writes, but it’s quite a long, salty swim.

  4. That’s awfully cute. Another tell is that river otters exclusively swim belly-down, sea otters almost always belly-up. There’s just the one picture of it swimming but it’s definitely belly down.

  5. @Ben in SF One thing is for certain it sure as hell didn’t take MUNI….

  6. Yeah, definitely a river otter. They have more weasal-y faces and long, skinny tails. And, as another posted noted, they spend time out of water, often on banks. Cute little guy (or gal).

    David, what lens did you use to capture these images?

  7. Based on a Chron article from April, there is a nice population in Marin county. It also appears that they have no problem traveling by foot (25 miles/day) to find their next nosh. So, my guess, the “little bugger” trekked some miles by land and possibly by sea for a tasty meal at Sutro Baths. Chron article: http://www.sfgate.com/science/article/River-otters-rebounding-with-hospitable-habitat-3482668.php

    On another note, my husband and I did a small-boat, wildlife cruise in Sitka. The engines were killed and we had to whisper (at most) the whole time. We saw loads of sea otters that were frisking, lounging, and diving (have lots of video somewhere). It was amazing. Although sea populations worldwide are endangered, the numbers are much greater in Alaska then along the California Coast.

  8. Thank you for the good words, hopefully these pictures raise awareness and understanding.

    I used a 300mm lens donated to me by J. Moss


  9. You know, I’m starting to think it’s impossible to take a bad picture of an otter.

  10. I was there that day and only got really crappy cell phone photos so I really appreciate you sharing the wonderful video & great shots! I’ve been seeing so much wild life in this beautiful city lately like never before~Dolphins at Sloat beach (not porpoises!), Coyotes in the parks (I know that’s nothing new but for me it was!) & that cute lil’ river otter was really neat to see last weekend. I wonder where it came from 7 how it got here. ..

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