Thursday, February 26, 2015

February 18, 2015

Four weeks since I last checked on the otters, that's how cold it has been. The snow has piled up in the woods. Porcupines reached that blissful state where they could walk to the trees they love almost completely enclosed in the troughs they had worn down in the snow.

Unfortunately the trough I made with my snowshoes went down another 2 feet in the snow. Half way to the Lost Swamp Pond I almost gave up and backtracked home. But slow as snowshoeing is in soft deep snow, I tried to think like the wind and avoid drifts. That hardly worked, so I walked 30 yards and took a break, again, and again. I crossed two porcupine trails but they always go from ridge to ridge, tree to tree, never to the swamps. I did merge with a deer trail conveniently heading in the direction I wanted to go. Usually they don't. Deer have a knack for heading to the low hanging thorns.

The deer saved me 50 yards of hard trudging, leaving me another 100 yards across the frozen pond. I could see tracks on and below the snow covered beaver dam.

Either the deer walked around the pond and found slush if not puddles of melt water to drink behind the dam or the otters had been out. Walking toward the dam, I passed the beaver lodge which didn't show any signs of recent life.

But it was not all smoothed over. Something had been on top of it a week or so ago, probably the otters. I soon saw that it was certain that the otters had been out behind the dam probably within the last 24 hours. They didn't slide on the snow. They leaped through it.

Their foray to the south did not go far. It looked like they almost nosed down to the pond ice and leaped back the way they came.

There is a hole where the pond ice meets the dam. Usually I crawl right up to such holes, stick my camera down it, assuming the water level is well below the ice as usual, and see what my camera can see. The snow was too deep for that. So I tried to figure out what the otters had been up to through the past few snowfalls.

Not an easy read. In February otters usually begin ranging around the pond, if not head to another pond. These otters appeared to have that inclination but kept being defeated by the depth and softness of the snow. But I'm probably reading too much into what little I saw. Judging from the close-up I took of the hole, no otter had been out that morning, though the hole looked well used.

Looking to the left, I saw more holes and the troughs from forays probably several days old.

The tracks at the west end of the dam looked almost fresh and gave the impression of otter pups following their mother up the slight slope to poop in their usual latrine.

As I took the photo above, I saw a hole in the ice low behind the dam but that didn't appear to be the hole the otters came out of, maybe one otter came out there a few days ago.

I trudged up the slope and saw that I was right. There were a couple of scats and, adding to the mystery, a tunnel that the otters made under the snow. Down along the dam I saw what might be a hole going down in the snow maybe to a hole in the ice.

But I didn't walk over to check. I am pretty sure no other human would come out to see this. Other than scatting to renew their claim on this pond and ward off any other otters from trying to come under its ice, the otters placed no meaning in their scampering about. But for the moment it was sacred to me. So I contented myself with taking a close-up of the snow tunnel and the scats.

Only half wishing I was Alice, I headed home and careful to retrace my steps made it non-stop.

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