Thursday, January 10, 2013

The Birthday Otter Returns?

I had to pull two of my research cams today and brought my daughter with.  Figured I could pull her in the sled from camera to camera and then we'd sled down one of the hills nearby.

The first order of business was to find the cameras.  I try to encourage her to walk ahead and tell me what she can see.  Often she identifies "deer poop" and the occassional track.

Today, she found my camera for me ;)

It also appears that some of our residents have continued moving about, despite the snow.

This includes the remaining Brute....whom survived the hunting season for yet another year.

...and, of course, The Todd still graces us with his presence every now and then.....

Today, however, as I pulled my daughter in the sled to the top of a hill near the cameras.....I happened to look down and see (what I'm almost certain are) otter tracks!  Comments on ID welcome!

It's the same high and dry site where I got a picture of the birthday otter in early December.  These tracks are heading in the opposite direction of the one I got on the cam trap before.

Perhaps a return trip?

There are so many fox and coyote tracks's always a possibility that I've mis-identified these.  Furthermore, the snow is melting...which distorts the tracks and makes them look strange.  Than there's the fact that the toes on Canine tracks in snow are more spread out than in hard mud (which could give the impression of otter toes sometimes).   But I'm pretty sure I see a fifth toe on both of these tracks above, webbing depression, and an elongated inter-digital pad.  Also these tracks were fresh...not melted Canine tracks.  Unfortunately, gaits were hard to make out, due to the snow melt.  I quickly lost the trail in the melted patches.

The pics above really look like otter tracks.  The ones below (which were the obvious next tracks in the trail) give me pause.  There still looks like a dragging depression where that fifth toe might have come down and was lifted when the animal moved forward (right side of the track).  Looks like a long inter-digital pad as well.

The one below has nice spread-out toes like an otter track and apparent webbing, but no fifth toe....

Eventually the patience that a 4 year old has with looking at holes in the snow wanes (even a 4 year old that likes animals). 

So, we got down to the activities that we had really set out to do.....


  1. Looks consistent with otter to me, but I don't know what I am talking about. You might try and see if someone in the Bay Area Tracking Club has an opinion:

    Randomtruth might be able to get you a direct e-mail to one of the club leaders if contacting through there doesn't work.

  2. The last 2 pictures ::to me:: look very canid. I have nothing to refer to for scale, but they don't look mustelid to me. I have limited experience with tracks, and even less so with winter tracks. Like you said, they're very easily distorted in melting snow.

    But, my first intuition says canine, and I can make an 'X' around the metacarpal pad I think in those last two.

    The first pictures I would definitely pin as otter!

    Interested to see what others have to say.

  3. Yeah....those last two pictures are not screaming otter to me the more I look at them. They seemed to me to be part of the same trail as the two at the top....but I still am not certain about these bottom two.