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Tuesday, May 26, 2015

Loping along

A nice set of early morning tracks, loping along towards the water's edge.

Do you have any guesses about what type of animal made these tracks?

I'll zoom in on one set of tracks for some additional clues.  Each track was ~3-3.5 inches (7.5-9 cm) wide and ~3-4 inches (7.5-10 cm) long .

This is a little tricky because the entire foot didn't register on the relatively hard-packed sand.  The uppermost print is probably the best.  Note that it has 5 toes, with short claws.  And the innermost toe is set lower than the others.

Here's a different set, at a slightly different angle.  Warning: The answer will be below this picture.

Okay — my best guess is that these tracks were made by a River Otter (Lontra canadensis).  Although the webbing doesn't show, everything else looks good for an otter the habitat, the size, the toe patterns, and the loping stride.

I was curious about whether the individual feet could be identified.  If you want to try this, remember that the front feet are smaller and more symmetrical, while the hind feet are larger and asymmetrical because the inner toe is slightly below the other four.

Here's the first close-up again.  Which is the right front, left front, right hind, and left hind?

Below is my best guess for the individual feet.  If you have a different answer, let me know!

Although we don't get to see River Otters very often, it's fun to see their tracks and to think about them exploring the shorelines of Bodega Bay!


David A. Hofmann said...

Jackie, on Monday 5/25 I saw a family of River Otters in Hole-in-the-Head while hearing and looking for the Least Bittern.

John W. Wall said...

While hiking the Lost Coast a couple of weeks ago we had an otter swim past us just offshore and in the surf zone. I thought it was a sea otter until it swam up the nearby stream and ran across the beach to go higher up the stream canyon. I woke up the next morning to see the otter chowing down on a fish (maybe a lingcod) that was probably as big as the otter. I'd also thought the cacophony of tracks along the edge of the stream were from someone's dog until I saw the otter.

Skip Hand said...

Never seen any Otter tracks, however early mornings we often walk along the banks of the Salmon Creek estuary and occasionally see Otters in the water. We think there is a family of three here currently. If there is not much wind, we have learned that we may locate Otters in the water by back-tracking ripples emanating from their dabbling on the banks.