• Could we have seen a River Otter?

    Question

    Hello, we hiked Swine Creek Reservation yesterday. We were sitting very quietly along the creek bank when we saw something move... when it moved away from the rocks, it ran up the hill (other side of the creek) . It really looked like a river otter since we have seen them in zoos before. However, I'm wondering if they are present in Swine Creek or if there is another animal that looks like a river otter? It was twice the size of a squirrel. We saw it alone. Also, wondering if otters would be by a creek. Thank you!

    Naturalist's Response

    Thanks for sharing your sighting!

    There are river otters here in Geauga County; they’ve been spotted on waterways in each of the county’s three main watersheds (the Chagrin River, the Cuyahoga River, and the Grand River). It’s possible your mystery animal was a river otter.

    The other main suspect would be a mink; they’re about the size that you describe (roughly twice the size of the typical squirrel), and also love our waterways.

    Keep an eye out for footprints. They can be a handy way to distinguish minks from river otters.  (The Ohio Division Of Wildlife has a handy guide for distinguishing mink tracks from otter tracks.)

    Best of luck with your search!

    – Naturalist Chris Mentrek