Cuumi nukallpiaq aaquyanek pisurtaallriit. - Men before used to always go hunting for land otter.
Kodiak is home to two varieties of otters, the sea otter (Enhydra lutris) that inhabits nearshore coastal waters, and the land otter (Lutra canadensis) that lives primarily in freshwater lakes and streams but ventures into saltwater to hunt. Land otters are opportunistic feeders that eat everything from fish to waterfowl, insects, rodents, and plants. Land otters live in family groups, inhabiting the same den for many years. Like the sea otter, land otters have a soft, warm pelt that Alutiiqs fashion into clothing. Land otters were once captured in deadfall traps weighted with a large rock or in snares made of flexible sticks.
An Alutiiq legend from Prince William Sound explains the land otter’s use of both the sea and the land. When the spirits of the land and sea divided the animals between them, the land otter was left behind. At that time the otter had a short tail. The two spirits quarreled over the otter, tugging on its tail until it stretched. The otter cried, “Please let me go! I will stay with both of you.”
Photo: Land Otters. Courtesy the USF&WS National Digital Library.