On a Mission

On a Mission – River otter, (2000)
Signed and Numbered Limited Edition of 1,500, Offset on Paper
Retail Price at Issue $195
Please inquire about the availability of Artist’s Proofs
Image Size 21 5/8″ x 32¼”

Interested buyers please contact Tracy Morrison (Conservation Design) at Email: aprintjock@gmail.com; Phone: 1-781-585-9871;
Located in Duxbury MA

The most frustrating thing in my career was always the fieldwork with river otters. Those nervous and playful guys never sit still. They are always diving and teasing each other, turning upside down in the water, emerging on the bank for only a few seconds (not enough for the camera to focus), then disappearing again underwater to continue their funny games. They are probably the happiest animals in the world. Otters are the most playful of the carnivorous mammals of the mustelid family, which also includes martens, weasels, skunks and even wolverines. Otters of all ages love to slide down banks of mud and snow. Even in captivity, otter antics never cease. It seems that their mission is to enjoy themselves.

While studying two tame otters in Oregon, I didn’t succeed in my attempt to get a satisfying photo, so I gave up the battle and instead chose to join them. Swimming together with such animals which climb on your back and touching your nose with theirs is an unforgettable experience. Additional fieldwork in different zoos made this painting possible. I thank all the people of those zoos for helping me so much.

Otters inhabit all kinds of inland waterways. They are excellent swimmers and divers and are usually found no more than a few hundred meters from the water. Even if they have temporary shelters in shallow burrows or in piles of rocks or driftwood, they will still have at least one permanent burrow by the water. Otters can remain underwater for six to eight minutes and generally are more active at night.

Their diet consists mainly of prey that they catch with their mouths — nongame fish, frogs, crabs and crayfish and occasionally birds and rodents. Otters have territories which they scent-mark and defend. Male otters are generally excluded from the company of females with young, but usually rejoin the family when the cubs are about six months old.

Because the otter’s beautiful fur is prized for coat collars and trim, their numbers have been reduced by fur trappers. Otters have also suffered from persecution as commercial fishing predators, habitat destruction, the misuse of pesticides and water pollution.

The increase or decrease of the river otter population is an important sign for the health of our planet. Otters cannot live in polluted water, and it should be our mission to see that this delightful species can survive. That is why I chose the river otter as the subject for the Earth Day print of the year 2000.

— Carl Brenders