River Otters In Wine Country

Carla Venezia

January 15th, 2020

River Otters in Napa Valley, California

Napa Valley Wine Country River Otters

When Dario’s great-grandfather, Vittorio, was growing grapes and making wine from fruit sourced around St. Helena in the early 1900s, river otters were a thriving native species in the nearby Napa River and its numerous tributaries. But by 1977, Napa County was omitted from the California Dept of Fish and Game’s list of counties with river otters.

The river otters’ gradual disappearance from the Bay Area was attributed to hunting, trapping, and industrial water pollution and land development leading to reduced wetland habitats.  The devastation of the river otter population was so complete that by 1995, the California Dept of Fish and Game showed virtually no river otters living anywhere in the several counties that make up the San Francisco Bay Area.

With the 1972 passage of the Clean Water Act plus proactive management of watersheds, restoration of wetlands and the efforts of local conservation groups, river otters have made a slow but (miraculously) steady comeback and we couldn’t be happier about it!

Dario first became aware of our local river otters a few years ago when he started spotting them in the Napa River near Calistoga. Ever since, he’s made it his mission to ensure Castello di Amorosa is doing everything possible to support our local river otters–this he does in several ways:

With sustainable agricultural practices, our winery and vineyards are Napa Green-certified, meaning we meet all regulatory components necessary for environmental sustainability, including water conservation and water efficiency. The Castello recycles and purifies its water, so the only runoff is clean (or rain!).  The Castello staff further contributes by ensuring the Castello’s very own Lake Mario and Nash Creek–which lead directly to the Napa River–are ecologically sound and full of happy, healthy fish!

Dario is looking forward to working with Megan Isadore, co-founder and Executive Director of The River Otter Ecology Project—a Bay Area river otter conservation group dedicated to encouraging continued re-population of river otters. The ROEP has “otter awareness” programs for children, field internship programs for teens, and volunteer opportunities for adults in the field and lab. ROEP assesses habitats and conducts field studies, among which include analyzing “scat” (to study the otter’s diet!). The ROEP maintains numerous “otter cams” alongside rivers and creeks which further contribute valuable data.

If you happen to see a river otter anywhere in the Bay Area, be sure to let ROEP know about it–even better if you can provide a photo. And don’t forget to tell Megan that Dario sent you!

For more on otters please visit here.