What Animal is It? A River Otter!

Why walk when you can slide? Seeing a river otter, or even just its tracks, is a reminder that there is always more than one way of getting from A to B, and that even the smallest journeys can be fun.

Active all year and at any time of the day, otters are social and quick, traversing the landscape with a combination of walking, loping, and sliding. Experienced otter trackers note that otters almost always slide downhill, whether on snow, mud, grass, or leaf litter.

That’s consistent with gravity, but otters also frequently slide on flat surfaces, like the snow-covered pond in these photos, and even uphill on occasion!

While their tracks on land are a special joy to find, otters are most at home in the water – rivers, ponds, lakes, and wetlands – especially when those aquatic systems are surrounded by forest.

otter standing in grass

Their long, muscular tails help them steer, balance, and swim underwater. Here, you can see large comma-shaped tail drags in the snow alongside their paw prints.

If you’re feeling sluggish and cooped-up on these midwinter days, maybe you otter take a cue from these energetic members of the weasel family, and get outside!   

otter tracks in snow


Otter photo: Pieter van Loon