Time to Start Looking for Otter Sculptures!

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Michelle Kunst, program and project organizer at the Land Trust, joined Jeff Black to look over Maureen McGarry's otter location. - MARK LARSON
  • Mark Larson
  • Michelle Kunst, program and project organizer at the Land Trust, joined Jeff Black to look over Maureen McGarry's otter location.
The long-awaited North Coast Otters Public Art Initiative's treasure hunt of 108 otter sculptures painted by local artists spread throughout five North Coast counties has finally begun and will continue through September.

The initiative's creator and Humboldt State University wildlife professor Jeff Black says he's really excited about finally getting the otter sculptures out.

"I've been getting phone calls from people in the community telling me that they're excited about getting to look for [the sculptures]," Black told the Journal. "I'm very excited about giving people something to look forward to."

All otter sculptures are up for bidding through an online silent auction open throughout the summer, and the highest bid sculptures will be sold in a live auction in September. The funds will then be used to fund HSU otter research and student internships with community-based watershed projects.

The North Coast Otters Public Art Initiative was created to celebrate life, water, and otters, support local businesses and raise funds for student projects.

You can download the otter sculpture guidebook (or artist location key) here, or simply head to the nearest shop, gallery, school or other North Coast locations to pick up a copy.

“The initiative arose from a desire to share what we are learning about wild river otters with the community,” Black said. “River otters are at the top of the food chain in coastal watersheds, rivers, and wetlands, and just like us, river otters need clean water and fresh food each day.”

Black says that "Bunty," the sculpture that inspired him to create the initiative, will make "special appearances" to promote the treasure hunt. 
Jeff Black and Bunty the Otter (Art) - PHOTO BY MARK LARSON
  • Photo by Mark Larson
  • Jeff Black and Bunty the Otter (Art)

Happy hunting!

100+ Otter Sculptures on Display in Public Arts Initiative to Raise Awareness about California's River Otters

The much-anticipated North Coast Otters have arrived! The North Coast Otters public art festival, treasure hunt, and online auction begin today.

North Coast Otters Public Arts Initiative is a community “treasure hunt” tour of more than 100 sculptures painted by local artists, with an aim to celebrate life, water, and otters, support local businesses, and raise funds for student projects. Visit the North Coast Otters Public Arts Initiative website for more information.

North Coast Otters merges art and science, encouraging imagination and observation from our region’s rich creative community.

The project commissioned 108 unique pieces of Otter Art now displayed at shops, galleries, schools, and other North Coast locations. Participating artists decorated three-foot-tall otter sculptures for an educational art trail throughout Humboldt, Del Norte, Mendocino, Trinity, and Siskiyou counties.

Use the maps and guidebooks to locate the otters. Learn all about the charismatic critter, which shares our wild rivers, coastlines, and wetlands. A Junior Otter Spotters "activity booklet" will be available to inspire the young and young at heart.

Otter Art sculptures are available for bidding in a silent auction online throughout the summer, and the highest bid sculptures will be sold in a live auction in September. Proceeds will go to HSU otter research and student internships with community-based watershed projects.

A guidebook—available at each host location and downloadable on the website—shows locations of participating shops, restaurants, and visitor centers. This public arts initiative provides an accessible opportunity to explore our connection with the natural world.

“The initiative arose from a desire to share what we are learning about wild river otters with the community,” says Jeff Black, HSU Wildlife professor and project lead. “River otters are at the top of the food chain in coastal watersheds, rivers, and wetlands, and just like us, river otters need clean water and fresh food each day.”

The project encourages community members to participate in the ongoing citizen science river otter records study by consistently reporting when and where wild river otters are observed throughout the North Coast region.

Since 1999, HSU students have been collecting otter records from citizen volunteers as a means of tracking the quality of North Coast habitats. River otters, seen at all times of day in our area, have captured the attention of thousands.

“Some of these wild river otters travel far and wide to find enough food each and every day,” Black says. “River otter numbers are beginning to recover thanks to efforts to restore and clean up habitats, but they need our commitment to ensure their presence in the wild.”

Send details of wild otter observations to otters@humboldt.edu or call (707) 826-3439.


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