For millennia salmon has been our lifeblood, touching every community with it’s nutrition. This has been a hard summer. The fish have been scarce all over Alaska with the exception of Bristol Bay. We hope that our salmon are not disappearing and that this summer was just an off year. Our salmon have to contend with many obstacles to make it home to our streams: warming waters, hazardous wastes, plastics, pollution, and becoming by-catch of fishermen fishing for other species. Once they get here, we make sure the escapement for spawning is sufficient for future years. Our subsistence foods feed our physical nutritional needs, but also fill our cultural needs; one is just as important as the other. (Turn the sound down…that is just our constant wind drowning out the sound of splashing salmon.)
The sea otter is a creature of daily habits that consist of napping and foraging. It forages and eats in the morning, usually taking it’s first meal in the predawn hour before sunrise. The otter naps during mid-day and hunts and forages until sunset. Many rest again and then forage for a third time around midnight. It is known to voraciously clean out beach foods in an area, then move on down the coast to new areas. It is said that the otter came to being when a brother and sister of Unangan decent threw themselves from a cliff and became otters.
Sea otters are one of the smallest sea mammals, but one of the largest members of the weasel family. Our otters, E.I. kenyoni, inhabit waters from the Eastern Aleutians to the Oregon Coast. Unlike most marine mammals who have dense blubber for cold protection, the sea otter’s primary form of insulation is an exceptionally thick coat of fur.
The presence of the otter in the ecosystem is more important than you might think. Otters keep the population of sea floor herbivores from over population. Especially sea urchins which graze on the lower stems of kelp often causing the death of kelp forests. Kelp forests, although very irritating to fishermen and their boat engines, are one of the most important parts of our ecosystem. Kelp forests absorb and capture CO2 from the air through photosynthesis, hence making the otter one of the creatures that can help impact the detrimental effects of climate change.
The otters pictured above have wrapped themselves in kelp after their afternoon foraging. Kelp helps keep the otters in place when they are resting or sleeping.
You never say the “S” word because it will surely jinx you and make a liar out of you. But starting in the second week of March we have had crazy crocus coming up and daffodils beginning to sprout. And even on their short little daffodil greens coming out of the ground, we are seeing buds. Surely this bumblebee I caught on camera yesterday knows what he is doing? All week long we have been having snow flurries that hit the ground, stay a bit, and dissipate within the hour. This is what we call “the snow that melts the snow”. Seeing how we have not had any snow this winter, it is sadly funny. I’m still waiting for a good 6-10 inches. I think I may be out of luck.