You’ve probably heard about the occasional cat on a power pole or a bird nesting on not-so-safe infrastructure, but we’ve got a new one for you: an otter in a Salt River Project canal!

SRP delivers water to the Valley through a network of 131 miles of canals and 1,000 miles of laterals and ditches. SRP zanjeros and other workers work on the canal every day to ensure a reliable delivery of water to the Valley’s cities and residents, and they encounter all sorts of interesting wildlife, but this was definitely a first.

Earlier this year, three SRP crew members, Craig Boggs, Dave Massie and Joshua Shill, were working on a road by the Arizona Canal north of Mesa when they noticed a 4-week-old otter struggling to get out of the canal. The otter was too small to use the steps that horses and other animals use to get out of the canal if they fall in, so the crew stepped in.

Baby otter rescued from canal.

Totter the Otter. Photo courtesy of Salt River Project

“The otter would go under water and come back up and fight a little bit more. She was calling for her momma. It’s just one of nature’s things,” Boggs said. “You can’t let it go. If you can save it, it’s the right thing to do. I didn’t want to let the little fella die on its own.”

Baby otter rescued from canal arrives at her new home at Out of Africa Wildlife Park

Totter arrives at her new home. Courtesy of Out of Africa Wildlife Park

After rescuing the otter, the SRP employees contacted the Arizona Game and Fish Department. The otter was dehydrated, starving and infested with fleas. Game and Fish wildlife staff cared for the otter and fed it a trout mash mixed with kitten’s milk, which has the appropriate nutrients.

Her condition improved and the otter was turned over to Out of Africa Wildlife Park in Camp Verde, where it will be cared for from here on out. Out of Africa co-owner Prayeri Harrison has personally overseen the recovery of the little one who was named Totter through a Twitter contest.

“She’s doing fantastic. She has so much energy – she will go, go, go all day and then when she stops, she lays upside down and sleeps,” said Prayeri of the 14-week-old Totter who will soon have a permanent home at the wildlife park.

Next week, Totter will be outside in her new, temporary habitat, swimming and playing.

Thank you to our crews and the wildlife experts for saving Baby Totter!

And for everyone out there, please follow these safety tips when you’re near any Valley canals!

Baby otter rescued from canal enjoys a bottle of milk.

Totter enjoys a drink. Photo courtesy of Out of Africa Wildlife Park


From time to time, Water – Use It Wisely features guest bloggers who write about topics related to water and water conservation. The authors of this blog post are employed by Salt River Project. Heather Albert is a Corporate Communications Strategist Senior and Patty Garcia-Likens is a Media Relations Representative. Salt River Project is one of 19 Water – Use It Wisely partners

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