San Francisco's hottest sightseeing destination isn't the Golden Gate Bridge anymore, but a small seaside pond located in the ruins of historic nineteenth-century baths. According to WANE.com, the pond is currently home to the first river otter seen in the city in decades.
The little animal has already drawn a big crowd, amusing visitors with his playful antics. Tourists aren't the only ones excited about this sudden appearance. Conservationists are overjoyed to see the species back in the area. The only issue is that they don't know how the otter found his way to the Bay Area.
The otter was first spotted by local bird watchers in September, and it appears he is getting settled. Researchers have noted that the animal is currently working on building a nest among the ruins of the baths.
In San Francisco, river otters used to be plentiful, but have disappeared due to hunting, pollution and development. The animals are seen as a barometer for water quality, so their disappearance marked bad news for environmentalists and residents. Now that this lone otter has returned to area of his ancestors, conservationists hope it is a sign of change and successful environmental regulations.
"The fact that this otter is in San Francisco and doing so well in other regions of the Bay Area is a good message that there's hope for the watershed," Megan Isadore, director of outreach and education for the River Otter Ecology Project, told WANE.com
The River Otter Ecology Project is closely watching S.F.'s furry new resident, since he is the first river otter spotted in the water in the past 50 years. The group has named the otter Sutro Sam, after the baths where he was found. The baths themselves were named after the mayor serving at the time of their construction, Mr. Adolph Sutro.
The historic setting of the baths gives Sam the perfect environment he needs to thrive. Located on San Francisco's Western shoreline, the baths offer the otter both fresh- and saltwater.
It is usually a young male otter, like Sam, that separates from the group to find food. Sometimes these hunters come across a new habitable area and start a colony. Conservationists hope that this is in Sam's plans, but are still trying to put his backstory together.
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"We're just trying to piece things together in a logical way," Isadore told WANE.com. "River otters sometimes even stow away on boats; we just don't know."
Hopefully, Sam is the welcoming committee for an otter colony looking for a fresh start in the City by the Bay.