I spied an otter slide in the snow. An otter slide? What's that?

When an otter travels on land, it sometimes slides on its belly, scooting along with its short, powerful legs. The otter leaves a nice belly imprint—an otter slide. It looks a lot like the mark you make when you slide downhill on an inner tube.

Do otters slide for fun like you do? I bet they do, because sliding is a fun, fast, easy way to travel.

I discovered the slide while walking in a pine forest. The slide wound its way down a steep hill before disappearing from my sight. Wondering where it went, I followed the trail. It led to the St. Louis River not far from Duluth.

In spite of the cold winter day, the river's strong currents and rapids kept the water from freezing completely. Near the spot where the otter slide ended, I saw an open pocket of swirling water surrounded by fresh otter paw prints on the snow-covered ice. I also noticed bits of something pink and brown. Looking through binoculars, I saw pieces of crayfish shells. Otters love to eat crayfish.

To me, the water looked dark and scary. I wouldn't want to fall in. But for an otter, the hole in the ice must have been like an invitation to fish for dinner. I knew that this would be a good place to sit and watch an otter in the wild. And that's what I did over the next few weeks in March.

Download full story

Download teachers guide

Download study questions