For all the other times I have looked for, hoped to, or simply thought we might see wildlife, this was not what I was expecting as we strolled the walkway alongside Wickford, RI Harbor. The water was like glass, and all the boats appeared to have been tied back up, done for the weekend. Several people sat on the benches, while on man stood, tossing his fishing line out into the water.The busy little seaside town was nearly deserted.
But one woman peered intently into the shallows, looking right below where we walked. Her cell phone was poised, and she was ready to snap a picture, but what was she looking at? I finally whispered, “What are you looking for?”
She pointed to the crevices in the stone retaining wall of the harbor. “Baby otters, I think.” She continued, “I thought it might be a rat, or a mink. I’m really not sure. They keep running back under the wall.”
We stood quietly and waited. Soon enough, a sharp little nose poked out from the wall, then the whole critter skittered along the uneven edges of rock that make up the retaining wall. Before we could get a picture, it had ducked back into another crevice and disappeared. We waited. Again, another animal scurried over the rocks. Then anther, and finally we saw three, fast on their feet, and sleek.
Clearly the mother otter had found a safe place to stash her babies–these animals were only a foot long or so, not including their tails. We saw no hint of the mother, but surely she was not far away. Perhaps if we had waited long enough, she would have appeared. Would she take them somewhere else? Or simply feed them and tuck them into their improbable den for the night?
Our thoughts had been on boats and the sea. What a sweet surprise to see these graceful, playful little ones cavorting at the edge of Wickford Harbor, after a day of biking out to the shore at Quonset Point. But that, as they say, is another story.
Marjorie Turner Hollman is a personal historian who loves the outdoors, and is the author of Easy Walks in Massachusetts, 2nd edition, More Easy Walks in Massachusetts, 2nd edition, and editor of Easy Walks and Paddles in the Ten Mile River Watershed. Just out is her latest book, Finding Easy Walks Wherever You Are. She has been a freelance writer for numerous local, regional, and national publications for the past 20+ years, has helped numerous families to save their stories, and has recorded multiple veterans oral histories, now housed at the Library of Congress. She is a co-author of the recent community history, Bellingham Now and Then