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River Otters Thriving At Heather Farm Park

Officials say there are at least six otters hunting in the park's concrete pond now that the water there is cleaner

One of the river otters at Heather Farm Park in Walnut Creek
One of the river otters at Heather Farm Park in Walnut Creek
The river otters are staying longer and certainly eating more at Heather Farm Park these days.

Officials say there are at least six of the otters and perhaps as many as eight living in the lake on the northern edge of the park and hunting for fish in the concrete pond in the park's center.

Mike Vickers, the city's public services manager, said the increase in the otter population the past two years is primarily due to two islands volunteers placed in the concrete pond in August 2012.

Vickers said the islands have provided a habitat for the pond's fish and they've also helped soak up pollutants in the water.

"It's all a great sign of water quality," said Vickers.

Since Contra Costa County officials stock the pond twice a year with fish, the otters know where they can find a quick meal.

They can be seen waddling across land from the lake to the pond.

The otters used to be in Heather Farm Park from only December to March.

However, Lesley Hunt of Friends of the Creek said the otters have extended their stays into the summer and fall months.

The otters were also in Civic Park downtown for six weeks early last summer, dining on crayfish.

Hunt said the otters probably travel a circuit during the year, finding places where there's food. They most likely migrate from the Delta to the Walnut Creek parks.

"They just wind their way up all the streams," said Hunt.

Hunt said the healthy otter population is a good sign for Walnut Creek's ecosystem.

"It's a success story about the park's water quality," she said.

The otters have become a favorite subject of photographer Rick Kelsch. Check out his photos that accompany this story.

Julie Jepsen-Grant January 29, 2014 at 10:51 AM
For many years we have loved watching the otters swim to HFP via the Costa Costa Canal. I once called animal control because a buck was stuck in the canal. They did a great job getting him out.
Julie Jepsen-Grant January 29, 2014 at 11:47 AM
Contra Costa Canal, oops.
WC-Independent January 29, 2014 at 03:46 PM
Please keep your dogs on a leash to protect this type of wildlife.
yikesahootie January 29, 2014 at 09:03 PM
Yay! I love those otters! O/T: Gawker says there was a major layoff at Patch today -- upwards of 80%. Is everything OK at Walnut Creek Patch? I hope so....

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