River Otter Makes Rare Appearance in San Francisco

A river otter has taken up residence in a spring-fed pool along the city's rocky Pacific coast

By Chris Roberts
|  Friday, Jan 4, 2013  |  Updated 5:23 AM PDT
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See the Sunset Inside Sutro's at the Cliff House

Jouko van der Kruijssen

A river otter dubbed Sutro Sam is living in a pool in the ruins of the historic Sutro Baths in San Francisco.

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San Francisco's first river otter in decades has appeared in the ruins of historic baths near the city's coast, stumping and delighting locals — and happily devouring the goldfish they dump there.

The otter has been dubbed Sutro Sam by scientists, for his residency in a spring-fed freshwater pool among the ruins of the historic swimming complex known as the Sutro Baths.

Sam favors a pool full of oversized goldfish among the ruins, according to the San Francisco Chronicle. Scientists say he appears to have swum across the Golden Gate from Marin County, just across the strait to the city's north, but they are not sure.

So many otters have popped up in Marin that some wildlife-conscious resident has erected an "Otter Crossing" sign in the town of Larkspur, the newspaper reported.

Sutro Sam is not afraid of people and is well-fed and healthy, the scientists say. The pool he's found at Sutro is perfect for an otter — it's next to the ocean but is fed with fresh water from underground, the newspaper reported.

He's eating carp-sized goldfish, dumped there by residents, "like potato chips," according to Megan Isadore of the River Otter Ecology Project.

Sam has been in the waters near Sutro since September, the newspaper reported. Scientists will conduct tests on the jelly found in his intestines, which may help to digest fish bones. In the meantime, otter-watchers are asked to keep their dogs away from Sam's pool — so the dogs don't get bitten.

To donate to the Sam-testing efforts, visit riverotterecology.org.

See more Sam photos here.

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