This guy wondered into our backyard the other day. He must have had an itch on his back that he just couldn’t scratch. He rolled around in the dirt for a while and seemed to enjoy it. If you look close he has his tongue sticking out in the photo on the left. We have to apologize for the poor focus of the photo; a rolling otter is difficult to keep in focus.

We have been very fortunate to have a large variety of creatures visit our yard. Someone asked if we live in a zoo. No, we are lucky enough to have a small bit of wetlands behind our house, and that connects to a wooded area of several hundred acres. Bobcats, foxes, wild pigs, raccoons, rattlesnakes, armadillos and more have been through our yard. Even that does not explain the visit from the otter. Stick with us; the answer is a bit long.

In Florida, otters live in the lakes and ponds that most neighborhoods have. When we were new Floridians, we thought those ponds were merely for nice scenery. In fact, the ponds, lakes and canals are an important part of the drainage system in most communities.

Much of Florida was covered in swamps. One way to create buildable lots from a swamp is to dig deep ponds and lakes and use the dirt to make firm ground around them. After the sort of false ground is built up, there needs to be a way to keep any heavy rain from washing all of the new dirt back into the pond.

One way to do this is to have drainage ditches and culverts throughout the development to not only carry the runoff water into the ponds, but to act as a holding area for any excess water. The extra water stays in the drainage pipes and ditches until the ponds can gradually take the excess water. The pipes are fairly large, about eighteen inches in diameter; they hold a large amount of water. The drainage ditches are usually about three feet deep. As the water in the pond drains into the water table below, the water level in the ditches and pipes goes down. Flooding is avoided.

Finally, here is the explanation of the otter in our yard.

Otters will swim up the drainage pipes. Our yard is about a third of a mile from the nearest pond. The otters will swim up the drain pipes to explore what is at the other end. That seems to be a long way to go, just to satisfy your curiosity.

We have seen the otters emerging from the pipes and then duck back in them as humans approach. The one in the photo above must have been extremely curious.




FOG sez:

You won’t find me crawling through any pipes; they don’t make em wide enough for me.