Sliding Towards Tuckerman Ravine

Intrepid skiers aren’t the only ones gliding through Pinkham Notch this month. As this photo shows, river otters take advantage of the slippery winter conditions to body surf through White Mountain woods and waterways.

Their thick, sleek coats and their hydrodynamic shapes make sliding the easy way to go—on mud, sand, grass, leaves, snow or ice. Otters are active year-round and travel up and down river drainages, hunting for fish, crayfish, and other aquatic food.

Otter scat is easily identified by the large proportion of fish bones and crustacean shells it contains.  With snow on the ground, it is easy to find their dark droppings beside open water, where meals are eaten on the spot.

Look for web-footed otter tracks—walking, bounding, gliding—along and through waterways.  

At Pinkham Notch, the twin-ended beaver pond marks a divide between two major watersheds. Once otters make it up the Peabody River from the Androscoggin side, they have a long downhill run on the Ellis River to the Saco. You can’t help but think their winter gliding must be fun!

Photos and text by Allison W. Bell, Co-Author of AMC's Field Guide to New England Alpine Summits and AMC Nature Notes guest blogger.