I am not 100% certain of the maker of these tracks, but it’s one of two species, and I’m pretty confident that it’s a North American river otter (Lontra canadensis) – the other possibility is a raccoon. There are subtle differences between the two, and some obvious ones like size, since an otter can be many times the mass of a raccoon, but my memory of the exact size is gone and I have nothing in the image for scale. This week’s slide was taken in 2003 in Florida, on the banks of the Indian River Lagoon, where the early morning sunlight played across the trail in a dramatic way. Both species would use the lagoon to find food at night, but raccoons would forage on the shore and in the shallows while otters would dive in and chase fish right in their element. Let’s just say ‘otter’ and be done with it.
Low-angle light is best for capturing things like animal tracks, as well as other textures, and the yellow sunrise beam provided a nice dramatic element. Of course I had to take this one.
Now, typing all that reminded me of some other images, and I went looking, but they’re not slides and don’t have the optimum light angle. At some other point in time in the same location (I ventured out to the area a lot,) I found an unmistakable otter trail, this one showing clear evidence of a sizable capture. It has to be a pretty big fish for an otter not to be able to carry it, and drag it along instead.
This was, in fact, taken at the same location as this series, so you can see that big fish were certainly available. The trail disappeared into a thicket impenetrable to me, and there was no chance of following it to see if the lucky otter was still working on its meal. Or passed out from gorging.