Photo by Alan Peterson, courtesy of HSU

If you have ever had the pleasure of seeing an otter, whether in the wild or frolicking in the Sequoia Park Zoo, then you understand the cuteness-overload that one experiences when spotting one of these furry friends. Humboldt State University has put together a creative way to celebrate these creatures with the North Coast Otter Public Art Initiative.

“It’s a celebration of life,”  HSU Wildlife Professor and project leader Jeff Black told the Outpost.

The project consists of 100 three-foot-tall otter sculptures, each uniquely-painted by commissioned artists, to be displayed throughout Humboldt and adjacent counties. You may have encountered a similar art project involving painted cows in various cities around the world, including Portland, Oregon.

Black said the idea for this project was inspired by the Moor Otters, a successful project in Dartmoor National Park, England. Black saw the otter sculptures there and thought they were a beautiful and fun way to engage people with nature and that a project like this might be great for our area.

Example of the otter sculptures from Moor Otters

The statues would be installed in summer of 2020 and eventually auctioned off to raise money for HSU student research projects and local grassroots watershed projects, such as Friends of the Dunes or Friends of the Arcata Marsh.

Black told the Outpost that the HSU River Otter Citizen Science Project will see its fair share of the funds as well. The student run project has been collecting data on wild River Otters in Northern California for nearly 20 years, through observation and citizen-reported sightings.

It’s important to document the otter population because, as a predator, they are a good indicator species, Black explained. Because they are at the top of the food chain in their system, a robust otter population is indicative of a healthy environment.

“The otter is a poster child for the healthy habitat,” he said.

photo by Stephanie McGeary

Black said that while many other habitats elsewhere in the world have seen a decline or loss of their otter population, we do still have a thriving otter community here, which is something worth celebrating.

Plus, it doesn’t hurt that they’re pretty darn cute.

The project is still in the planning and fundraising stage and is currently seeking sponsors. For more information, or to become a sponsor visit, email or call 707-826-3439.

Black will also be hosting a lecture at the Arcata Marsh Interpretive Center on Friday, September 21 at 7:00 p.m.

Also, just a reminder that the group always wants you to call in and report your river otter sightings. You can call the number above or email with a description.