A romp of otters that’s how one refers to a group of these smart, playful, fun-loving and energetic aquatic mammals. Related to weasels, stoats, minks and wolverines, they can be found on all continents, with the exception of Australia and Antarctica. Helpful and happy to share with members of its romp, the otter stands as a shining example of a species that’s faithful to its kind.
These web-footed creatures are expert fishers in rivers, streams and lakes as well as the sea. They also employ the use of tools to crack the shells of mollusks. As an evolutionary response to spending much of their lives in frigid water, their fur has developed into a thick water-repellent coat. When European fur trading boomed in the late 18th and early 19th century, the highly sought-after sea otter of the Northwest coast of Canada and Alaska came close to extinction.
Native American peoples have long admired the otter as a strong protector of family. The otter is also a powerful symbol of ‘woman medicine’ and female energy. Sea otters pups will haul themselves out of the water and ‘rest’ on their mother’s stomach while she floats on her back. Curiosity, empathy, and grace are three more characteristics with which we associate and identify the otter. As an animal totem and spirit guide, the otter symbolizes speed and agility. It teaches us that play is an important aspect of life. Watching otters, adults and pups chasing each other and sliding down banks head first, or lying on their backs chirping and chatting to each other, it’s easy to see why they continue to symbolize joy, fun, and mischief wherever we’re lucky enough to observe them.
Ojibwa legend tells how the otter played a practical joke on the bear, who asked how to catch fish. “Stick your tail (bears had tails in ancient times) in the hole in the ice,” advised the otter, “and the fish will come.” After an all-day vigil waiting for a bite, the bear’s tail had become frozen solid, and it dawned on him that he’d been the butt of a joke. The moral of the otter story — Don’t believe everything people tell you!
For the Haida, legend tells that, in early times, when the great Transformer was travelling the land, he came across a man sharpening a spear with which to kill him. He turned the man into an otter and the spear became its tail. The otter is often featured in Haida art works.
In the Amazon, giant otters can grow to over six feet in length and weigh up to seventy-five pounds. They live and hunt in packs of up to eight members, just like wolves. Fish stand little chance against these determined and cunning hunters.
Get inspired by some great images and tattoos in our Otter Tattoo Gallery