Could it be an otter in my backyard?

winsorw(8)July 20, 2009

Hi,

I saw an animal in my backyard this morning (Auburn), it looks like an otter or a weasel. Dark brown and long thick tail, it moves like an otter. But could it an otter? I took a picture but only the back of it and don't have a way to upload it here.

Thanks.

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buyorsell888(Zone 8 Portland OR)

Are you near water? How big was it? An otter is well over two feet long, almost three feet if you count the tail. A weasel or an escaped domestic ferret would be only about 18" long including the tail.

    Bookmark   July 20, 2009 at 7:47PM
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buyorsell888(Zone 8 Portland OR)

Otters, ferrets, minks and weasels all move with a distinctive motion that humps up their backs. They all smell sort of skunky too since they are related. Otters and minks are dark brown. Weasels have white feet and bellies.

My husband saw a domestic ferret in his friend's yard awhile back and I called a ferret rescue and she said she gets calls all the time about ferrets running around.

We do have otters, minks, fishers and weasels native here in the PNW but they aren't common in cities like raccoons, opossums and nutria are. Nutria look like big rats which is what they are....

    Bookmark   July 21, 2009 at 2:02AM
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winsorw(8)

Thanks buyorsell888, it was about 3 feet including the long tail. Definitely longer than 18". It was too big to be a ferrot, and didn't look like a weasel (as you described). I wasn't close enough to smell it. The thing is I'm not at all near water, but on a hill actually. That's why I'm a little curious. It has a very slender body and moved similar to what you described. My email is winsorw(at)hotmail.com, if you'd like to see it I will be more than happy to email the picture to you.
Thank you for the replies.

    Bookmark   July 21, 2009 at 12:12PM
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plantknitter(8)

Any fish/koi ponds in your neighborhood which are now minus the fish?

    Bookmark   July 21, 2009 at 10:12PM
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boxofrox(z8 PNW)

Google mountain beaver and you may find your answer. They don't have to be near water.

    Bookmark   July 22, 2009 at 8:11AM
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gardengal48

I thought of mountain beaver as well.....they are pretty darn common. But they don't have tails! And I don't care how docile they might be, I'd not like to encounter one that was 3' long :-)

    Bookmark   July 22, 2009 at 9:59AM
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morz8(Washington Coast Z8b)

My sister has had a pair otters off/on in Kent, but she has a fresh water pond fed by a creek. I find them interesting, my sis not so much.... She stocks the pond with trout for the grandkids :)

    Bookmark   July 22, 2009 at 11:14AM
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winsorw(8)

It is definitely not a mountain beaver (Thanks Boxofrox, picture in Google doesn't look like it). I'll have to try to get the picture uploaded.

    Bookmark   July 22, 2009 at 1:44PM
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winsorw(8)

I set a flickr page up (I hope it works). Please see the photo and let me know. Thanks.

http://www.flickr.com/photos/winsorw-garden/

Here is a link that might be useful: What is it?

    Bookmark   July 22, 2009 at 2:40PM
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albertine(z5b Idaho)

It's an otter.

    Bookmark   July 22, 2009 at 3:19PM
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winsorw(8)

Thanks Albertine. It's very strange since there is no pond around here that I know of, except a swimming pool in the neighbour's home.

    Bookmark   July 22, 2009 at 3:35PM
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morz8(Washington Coast Z8b)

I doubt if it was finding its favorite foods in the swimming pool.

Wonder why it crossed through your yard. I tried to see how far from water they would wander but didn't find any info that said specifically what normal distances they would travel across land. I've only seen them in water, or close enough to water they've had wet feet :) but my guess is most of the times I've been near one, it's been aware of me long before I would have seen it.
"River otters are active year round, and, except for females with young in a den, are constantly on the move. They tend to follow a regular circuit that is covered in one to four weeks. Males can travel 150 miles within a particular watershed and its tributaries in a year."

    Bookmark   July 23, 2009 at 8:27PM
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winsorw(8)

LOL on the swimming pool.

Thanks for the info. Maybe it's river otter. I wouldn't mind seeing one again, as compared to raccoons. I caught a raccoon yesterday in a trap, and guess what? while I was contemplating what to do with it, it escaped right in front of my eyes. It was smart enough to get itself out of the trap.

    Bookmark   July 24, 2009 at 1:48PM
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buyorsell888(Zone 8 Portland OR)

Oh yes, that is a River Otter. How cool!

    Bookmark   July 24, 2009 at 8:31PM
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albertine(z5b Idaho)

A friend has a pond that has seen otter traffic. Apparently his dog decided to do something about that otter, and the otter took him by the nose and almost drowned him in the pond. Badgers are members of the same family, along with wolverines.
I keep thinking about why your otter would be on a hill, and can't seem to find any good answer - maybe it was crossing into another watershed in a territorial dispersal? Are you on top of a hill, or close to a saddle in between hills? I would think it strange that an otter could be chased into hills - it would naturally retreat to water where it's more comfortable - they are swimmers, not runners.

    Bookmark   July 25, 2009 at 11:04AM
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Embothrium(USDA 8 Sunset 5 WA)

It otter have known better.

    Bookmark   July 25, 2009 at 12:43PM
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winsorw(8)

Funny bboy:-)

There isn't really anything I would call a habitat for the otter near my home. I hope he did find water soon after he left my yard.

    Bookmark   July 25, 2009 at 1:52PM
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buyorsell888(Zone 8 Portland OR)

Might be a young male out looking for his own territory.

    Bookmark   July 25, 2009 at 5:29PM
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Embothrium(USDA 8 Sunset 5 WA)

Apparently winsorw's territory was not available.

    Bookmark   July 25, 2009 at 7:46PM
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muddydogs

I've never seen an otter. Seen weasels though. Tiny deadly killers of young rabbits.

    Bookmark   July 26, 2009 at 12:27AM
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buyorsell888(Zone 8 Portland OR)

I've never seen a wild otter either but I love watching them on nature shows.

    Bookmark   July 27, 2009 at 3:36PM
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westover(Portland OR)

There was a charming book and movie years ago about a man who had a pet otter, "Ring of Bright Water" by Gavin Maxwell

Here is a link that might be useful: Ring of Bright Water

    Bookmark   July 27, 2009 at 5:24PM
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hemnancy(z8 PNW)

I saw marine otters once in a lagoon on the Oregon coast, adorable in real life as well as in aquariums.

Off topic, I have seen a couple of ferrets, I assume black-footed or ? along roads. I'm wondering if they would be the answer to my vole/mole problems and how compatible they are with cats. I don't know how to get one to move in, or how numerous they are, so do domestic ferrets like to go down holes and kill voles?

    Bookmark   July 27, 2009 at 8:25PM
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buyorsell888(Zone 8 Portland OR)

I saw three wild sea otters in the harbour in Vancouver BC. So cute. I thought they were seals from a distance and when I got up to the sea wall and realized they were otters I gasped so loud that I scared them away. :(

No Black Footed Ferrets here, they are highly endangered and all under controlled breeding programs or monitored release.

Yes, domestic ferrets are used for rabbit hunting but I think voles might be too small. Google hunting with ferrets.

Here is a link that might be useful: Black Footed Ferrets

    Bookmark   July 27, 2009 at 11:29PM
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hemnancy(z8 PNW)

buyorsell- perhaps what I saw was a long-tailed weasel? I saw one at the edge of a road and one crossing a road. I think it was night-time and I couldn't see them very well. But the shape is rather distinctive, and they were not very big, maybe around 18" long.

    Bookmark   July 28, 2009 at 6:31PM
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dottyinduncan(z8b coastal BC)

ok, we see river otters all the time. They have the stinkiest poo you can imagine! And they love to deposit it on mooring lines, docks, boats, etc. A friend of ours has a family of them under her house and they have raised a litter. These guys are big, strong, stinky and territorial. They haven't been able to get them out while they had their kids in there, but as soon as they leave, they surround their home with an electric fence. They tried using rebar but the otters were able to bend it! One otter - cute. Family of otters -- awful.

    Bookmark   July 30, 2009 at 11:36AM
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buyorsell888(Zone 8 Portland OR)

Hemnancy, could have been weasels or minks or escaped domestic ferrets. They all look very similar and are the same size and all move the same way hunching up their backs. Hard to describe.

Weasels have brown coats with white bellies and paws, minks are all dark brown and domestic ferrets come in many colors.

Here is a link that might be useful: Funny video of domestic ferrets

    Bookmark   July 31, 2009 at 5:50PM
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muddydogs

A couple of years back an otter family tried to drown a child on a river in WA. Weasel's couldn't do that.

    Bookmark   July 31, 2009 at 11:22PM
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