The Otters Were Alert To Something They Could Sense, But Could Not See.

The Encounter

Text and Photographs by

Bob Paty

It was a cool morning, following a cold night, the sun was still low and the sun's rays shadow danced across the rippled surface of the water at the Merritt Island National Wildlife Refuge.

Two river otters were swimming, diving and playing in a pond that had been created when dirt was excavated for a road. Occasionally one of the otters would catch a fish and carry it to the edge of the pond. Holding the fish in its two front paws the otter would eat its catch, then rejoin the other otter. The two were young animals approximately three quarter grown. They were probably the result of the previous year's breeding. There was a strong bond between them, they were probably siblings.

As the otters continued their play and fishing, there was movement in the shadows at the pond's edge. In the faint morning light within those shadows, an image appeared. Then the form and shape of a cat was visible in those shadows. A bobcat responded to the sounds of the otter! Its attention was fixed in the direction of the otters, which had returned to the water to resume their light-hearted play. As the bobcat continued to move forward to the pond's edge, it was bathed in the otter early morning light. The cat was a young male, apparently fully grown. He was in splendid condition, the fir was thick and all its beautiful markings were visible in the bright rays of the morning sunlight. His feet and legs were stocky and he had no cuts or scars on his face or ears, like other Florida bobcats in the wild.
Suddenly, just as the bobcat had appeared it disappeared, in a ghost-like way. The otters stopped their activity and were alert to something they could sense, but could not see. They approached the pond's edge with caution, then abruptly turned and retreated to the security of the deeper water.

The bobcat approached the edge of the pond again, some twenty yards further down, directly across from the otters. The otters approached the bobcat cautiously at first, but each time would retreat to the safety of the deeper water. Each approach drew them closer to the bobcat, finally when one of the otters was about ten feet from the bobcat, it stood up in the water until one-third of its torso was out of the water. The otter was taunting the bobcat!

The otters returned to their fishing and frolicking, seemingly oblivious to the presence of the bobcat. They moved further down the pond. They left the water to shake and roll about at the water's edge. In an instant the bobcat disappeared. The otters sensing his proximity, quickly and silently slid into the water. The bobcat soon emerged from the shadows and the whole scenario was repeated. This time the otters approached the bobcat closer than before, daring him to enter their domain.

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