Sutro Sam and Bottlenose Dolphins

Sutro Sam, the first river otter in San Francisco in 50 years! (photo by Beth Pratt)

For those of you not familiar with San Francisco's newest animal celebrity, Sutro Sam refers to the river otter who has taken up residence in Sutro Baths, a ruins located at Lands End in San Francisco. Aside from being pretty darn adorable, this intrepid animal is the first river otter to be seen in San Francisco in over 50 years! He now possesses quite a following and crowds gather around the baths to see him pop his head above water.

Sutro Baths, Lands End, San Francisco (photo by Beth Pratt)

Last week I made a field trip to check out Sutro Sam and spent a beautiful two hours strolling near the Pacific, alternatively watching sea birds and this river otter frolic in the adjacent waters. We receive so much bad news in the environmental field daily that I needed to celebrate this remarkable success story of an otter returning on his own to his historical habitat. As Megan Isadore from the River Otter Ecology Project observed to me in a recent interview: "Sutro Sam is a perfect example of the joy we gain from making the changes great and small that allow wildlife to return and thrive in areas where we haven't seen them in a long time."

Sutro Sam (photo by Beth Pratt)

At one point, as I took photos of Sam, I simply turned around to witness a group of bottlenose dolphins and their calves swimming in the ocean. Bill Keener, my friend at Golden Gate Cetacean Research, said there is a small group of dolphins hanging out around the San Francisco Coast even though they usually retreat further south for the winter.

Bottlenose dolphin from Sutro Baths (photo by Beth Pratt)Bottlenose dolphins and calves, (photo by Beth Pratt)

Just another reason I love California: river otters and dolphins within 500 feet of each other!