Otters Everywhere: Countywide Art and Science Project Begins

This is a press release from HSU News & Information:

River otters. Photo by Alan Peterson.

Local river otters will be getting some colorful cousins in the next couple years.

Under the North Coast Otters project, the region will host 100 life-size river otter sculptures decorated by commissioned artists.

The ambitious collaboration of art and science led by Humboldt State is an effort to encourage imagination and observation from the region’s creative community. This public arts initiative also provides an opportunity to explore our connection with nature through engagement with this charismatic critter.

The project will commission 100 unique pieces of otter art to be displayed at shops, galleries, schools, and other North Coast locations. Participating artists will decorate three-foot-tall otter sculptures to be installed in summer 2020 throughout Humboldt County and adjacent gateway towns. A Junior Otter Ranger educational program will be launched to inspire the young and young at heart. The statues will be auctioned to raise funds to support the region’s grassroots watershed projects and HSU student internship opportunities.

“The initiative arose from a desire to share what we are learning about wild river otters with the community,” says HSU Wildlife Professor Jeff Black, who is leading the project.

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 the area, have captured the attention of thousands. The project recently logged its 5,000th citizen otter report.

While visiting England in 2017, Black learned of a successful public arts initiative held in Dartmoor National Park in England, called Moor Otters ( This became the inspiration for North Coast Otters.

“North Coast Otters provides a delightful opportunity for our community to learn about and appreciate the significance of this charismatic animal in our region’s clean water habitats,” Black says.

The project gives partners, sponsors, and hosts of the otter art to interact with community members and visitors. Proceeds will enable student opportunities and community-based watershed projects that lead to a better connection with the natural world.

North Coast Otters is currently seeking sponsors for the project’s initial activities. Several “Humboldt Patrons” have committed initial funding to help launch the project, but more funding is needed. Future steps will include a public call for artists’ design concepts and a search for host locations for the completed sculptures. Each of these efforts will enhance the visibility of the project and its supporters.

Black will be hosting a lecture at the Arcata Marsh Interpretive Center on Friday, September 21, at 7 p.m. Another presentation is scheduled at the Natural History Museum on November 9.

See more information at

If you’re interested in being involved, please contact:

North Coast Otters

Jeff Black, Project Director


Examples of otter art from Moor Otters.



  • Is this a joke? I would think “River Stoners” would be a better project, with the truly awful artists of HumCo contributing bizarre depictions of the north coast’s most outrageous dope fiends.

    Those HSU profs certainly know how to waste money. I hope not a penny of taxpayer funds goes into this ridiculous project.

    Because, of course, there is nothing better to spend the money on around here. Like affordable otter housing, getting homeless otters off the streets, hiring more otter cops, otter after school activities, and so on.

  • Decorate otter statues? That’s not art, that’s a girl scout project!

  • Two things that give me joy are art and otters. Combining the two to highlight these unique creatures sounds like a great idea to me. I’ve been lucky to have spotted otters in the wild on many occasions and have reported each sighting to Professor Black’s project. Sometimes I see them in the slough near my house. Other times at the Humboldt Bay Wildlife Refuge which would be an excellent location for a piece of otter art. I think this is a fun, creative, and whimsical way to bring more art to our community.

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