Wednesday, March 05, 2008

Mystery critters

Argh! The camera was so far away! What in the world are these creatures?!

Critter #1 was just crawling out of the creek bank, I think. The back legs are possibly still below, out of the picture.

I lightened it up a bit, but I'm not sure it helps. This is about the limit of the flash's range, unfortunately.

Critter #2 does us the favor of showing his tail.

Here's the picture lightened up a little.

Since there's no perspective for size in these pics, here are the larger uncropped shots. I'm including yesterday's deer and coyote for comparison. Ignore the times/dates - they got a little off, and haven't been reset.

I'm fairly certain that critter #2 is a muskrat (Ondatra zibethicus). We don't have nutria here, and I don't know what else would have a tail like that.

What is critter #1? I was really trying to make him into a mink, but the more I look, the more I think he's really an otter. Especially when I compare with these earlier game cam shots. But let me know what you think.

Here are more otter pictures, in daylight.


Here is a closer look at critter #2 (click to enlarge slightly):

This is where I am seeing his outline, and why I thought it was a chunky muskrat. This may not be right, however. Like I said, it's difficult to see where his back ends and the brush behind him begins.


Lorianne said...

Actually, my gut impression is that they are both otters. Muskrats have skinny tails, but they are substantially smaller than otters. They're also shaped differently: more like a round furry ball with a rat tail vs. the sinuous weasel shape of an otter.

So I'd guess that creature #1 is an otter, and creature #2 is an otter with a skinny, fur-slicked tail. If he just crawled out of water, that could have slicked his tail so it looks ratty rather than otter-like.

Lorianne said...

(The un-articulated point of the first paragraph of my previous comment being that the two critters look to be the same size, whereas a muskrat would look noticeably smaller than an otter.)

Rurality said...

Hmm, you may be right. In the critter #1 pic, I was thinking that it is actually showing just half of his body. But it's kind of hard to tell. And I thought that critter #2 was much chunkier, but it's really difficult to discern where his back stops and where the brush behind him begins. Possibly he's not as big as I'd thought. If he's slim, he probably is an otter.

Karmyn R said...

I would say Otter or mink.

Definitely NOT Nutria. We have those here in Oregon and they are much fatter with bigger heads.

robin andrea said...

I think they're both otters.

City Girl said...

Otters. Quite possibly 1. pregnant otter and 2. baby-daddy otter.

Annie in Austin said...

No experience here, Rurality, and no opinion - I'm just enjoying both the photos and the discussion.

Whatever the critters are, I hope you see them again.

Annie at the Transplantable Rose

threecollie said...

I vote with the one otter one muskrat contingent, but it is hard to say. Neat photos anyhow

gtr said...

Do you have beavers around there? That skinny looking tail could actually be the side-shot of a flat beaver tail, maybe...

Floridacracker said...

I otter know this one, but I'm otterly clueless.
One may be an otter and two could be his dotter.

mon@rch said...

my guess would have been Muskrat also!

pablo said...

I agree with everyone (except FC, but only because of his attempts at puns) that they must be otters. I hope you can set the camera a little close in the future.

Any tracks in the area?

The Barber Bunch said...

Love the Game Cam......keep up the good work!

sweetpea said...

I vote 2 otters. IMHO


fun game

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All the best,


This blog contains tutorials, information and photographs on bushcraft, camping, hiking, photography, nature, plants, politics, project management, and posts and photos on everything from Mors Kochanski, to Ray Mears and Bear Grylls, Les Stroud of Survivorman fame, canoeing in Algonquin Park, Toronto, Ontario and much more.

nina said...

I vote mink and muskrat.
Based upon the time of day, manily and picking two animals close in size to eachother.
We have toms of muskrats, and the shape of that one seems quite similar to those I see here all the time. Picking another nocturnal animal similarly size, I'd pick mink--they're known to be good fishers and walk creek banks at night.
My only experience with otters has been that they enjoy broad daylight.

KFarmer said...

When I saw that pic, I thought it was one of those fish that walk on the land.. lol! I'm such a dim-wit...nuff said.

Loved the heron pictures. Soooo very pretty :)

City Mouse said...

No sort of educated opinion, but I thought otter and muskrat first. But really I like looking at the animal cam! Thanks for the post.

Randy and Jamie said...

My first instant impression is that they are otters. What ever they are I love the fact that you are able to catch them on camera.

Pamela said...

I thought otter or mink. The body appears more like an otter.

Anonymous said...

Not sure either, but we DO have a LOT of beavers in this area. (I live about 30 miles north of your area, used to be on a farm and the beavers built a dam in our creek!) But I've never seen one up-close and personal, so couldn't be sure.

Interesting cam pix!

Therese said...

Fun challenge! I vote for otter and beaver (2008!). That angular, ramrod straight tail sure indicates a beaver to me. Check out (third photo). Bob Arnebeck has lots of info on beavers, otters, muskrat, and minks (see

Sharfa said...

Muskrat and possibly a Fisher Cat. Fishers are more nocturnal than Otters, yet similar in size.

Rurality said...

Thanks everybody! I guess there is no way to tell for sure, since the photos are so dark.

Sorry I didn't respond to comments earlier... I've been away at a gardening conference.

We have previously seen muskrats, beavers, and otters. We should also have minks, according to teh range maps. But no nutria (they're further south) or fishers (they're further north). No tracks in the immediate area at present.

Thanks also to those who left links, I will check them out.