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North American River Otters Sliding

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There is no denying that North American River Otters know how to travel and have fun in winter. Whether on a flat surface such as a frozen pond or river, field, or down slopes, otters take advantage of the snow, bounding then dropping to their belly and sliding, saving precious energy. Most slides are relatively short, around 10 feet long and 6-10 inches wide, though they can be as long as 25 feet long on slippery ice. At the beginning and end of a slide there are tracks (from where they push off with their hind feet, and cease sliding and begin bounding again), creating a dot-dash pattern. Sometimes a downhill slide is used repeatedly and when it is, bobsledders have nothing over otters, as water from the otters’ coats creates an icy and very slippery slide.

For those of you who would like to view an excellent video of an otter sliding, go to https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=iBB0OLOkvIU .

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11 responses

  1. nangalland

    My favorite animal – well, fox are too…. loved the video. Stay warm and safe – it’s a white-out here now. Got my stove crankin’ and ready for hot cereal. love, Nan

    >

    February 13, 2017 at 7:41 am

  2. Several years ago I found sliding tracks all the way across Kettle Pond, probably a mile, where the otters went from a hole along the edge of the lake to another hole on the other side. Impressive.

    February 13, 2017 at 8:04 am

  3. Alice Pratt

    Sure would be so fun to see them slide!

    February 13, 2017 at 8:19 am

  4. Otters don’t need a downhill slope to play at sliding (as Mr. Snell pointed out above). I’ve seen wonderfully long otter-furrows in light snow covering smooth hard crust. They must get up a big head of steam as they glide over low-relief hummocks and hollows in swampy forest bordering Green River Reservoir.

    February 13, 2017 at 8:27 am

  5. Bill On The Hill...

    On a personal level, I have NO love for otters. They got under the ice on my pond & consumed each & every rainbow trout I lovingly raised from fingerlings & were at the time averaging 13 plus inches in length, all 84 of them, gone… :>(
    Bill Farr…

    PS: Funny thing is, I haven’t seen an otter on my property since, been 12 years now…

    February 13, 2017 at 8:39 am

  6. betsy stewart

    Ian and Sylvia song from the 1950s –

    Wild geese flying by;
    Calling on the downwind as they go;
    No answers they bring,
    And springtime has too many miles to flow;
    Lone black pines,
    Hillsides all covered in snow,
    Why does the wind
    Say you ain’t coming back any more?

    Was there a time,
    When my dreams were not always of you?
    The days ain’t so bad,
    But each night takes so long passing through;
    Down by the stream,
    Fresh otter tracks in the snow;
    Why does the wind
    Say you ain’t coming back any more?

    February 13, 2017 at 9:30 am

  7. Jo-Ann Ecker

    we have had otters here…..they glide down the hill and into the pond…frozen frog heaven…2 years ago she came back with her 2 pups…what a treat to see

    February 13, 2017 at 9:47 am

  8. Suzanne Weinberg

    Great post and linked video. I wonder if you could do a post about how to distinguish otter and mink tracks/slides? I see mink slides around here going in and out of small streams – waters I think too small for otter habitat – but have also seen them along the West River, where the sign could be from either, habitat-wise. Sometimes I can’t get close enough to measure, and that can be dodgy anyway in snow conditions. Anyway, that’s a request from your peanut gallery!

    February 13, 2017 at 10:54 am

    • Hi Suzanne,
      Distinguishing between mink and otter tracks is fairly straightforward, due to the discrepancy in size (mink tracks much smaller, width of mink slides also smaller). However, distinguishing otter and fisher tracks can be tricky, to say the least. For an excellent reference, look at Mark Elbroch’s description of how to distinguish them on p.185 of his book “Mammal Tracks & Sign.” (Too lengthy for me to describe here!)

      February 14, 2017 at 10:52 am

  9. Such amazing creatures! So cute 🙂

    February 13, 2017 at 6:07 pm

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