A wayward river otter left his watery habitat to journey through a Rohnert Park kindergarten playground and nearby neighborhood before being captured Sunday by wildlife rescuers.
The 16-pound, male otter appeared to be in good health, said Doris Duncan, executive director of the Sonoma County Wildlife Rescue.
"He is quite feisty," she said, noting the otter was quick to chomp down on her leather handling gloves.
But the otter is not quite as alert as rescuers would like, so he is being kept for evaluation and observation at the organization's Mecham Road facility, Duncan said.
Had he been more alert, she said she would have put him in a nearby creek.
A couple driving by John Reed Elementary School stopped when they spotted the otter late Sunday morning and phoned the wildlife group.
"He was running around the parking lot kind of disoriented," Larry Jerve said.
He said he stopped because he was concerned about the otter's welfare.
"There are a lot of dogs in our neighborhood," Jerve said.
Jerve followed the otter as it ran into the playground, where it wedged itself between a wooden barrier and chainlink fence.
The otter stayed there until rescuers arrived.
Duncan used a catch pole with a noose to pull the animal from his hiding place and lifted him into a carrier.
"We caught him so fast, he went right into the enclosure. It was a really good rescue," Duncan said.
There is no river in the area where the otter was found but there are some seasonal creeks created by the recent rainfall.
It's not unusual in winter for otters to make exploratory trips up seasonal creeks, then wander away from the stream when they end.
"They're very curious little creatures," Duncan said.
Sometimes they get lost, other times they may get chased by a dog, she said.
She said the group averages two otter rescues a year.
The otter is the group's first this year, Duncan said.
You can reach Staff Writer Glenda Anderson at 462-6473 or email@example.com