As I was driving down the curvy roads of Mansfield last winter, I noticed a large animal lying off on the shoulder of the road. He had unfortunately been hit by a car and was dead.
He was longer and heavier than a fisher cat, with similar thick brown fur that was slowly turning white as the soft snow fell from the cold grey sky.
I was curious about the animal, so I pulled over to get a closer look.
My boys were in the back seat with their basketball uniforms on and reminded me that we were already running late for the game, so I needed to make this observation a quick one.
I was amazed to see that the poor animal was a river otter -- and a big one at that. I looked down at the water he must have called home and decided to take a hike into this beautiful piece of woods first thing in the morning.
The next day, the sky was a crystal clear blue color and the air was chilly. I had about four inches of fresh fallen snow to track the animals across this river valley that was surrounded by huge oak and beech trees.
I stayed close to the water, hoping to find the tell tale tracks of the river otters family. The water ran fairly deep across the big rocks and I pictured some nice native trout swimming beneath the water. I tried to imagine the sleek agile otter tracking down a trout for breakfast before he decided to cross the road for one last time. I walked through the valley, and found a fresh set of deer tracks but no sign of the otter.
River otters are making a strong comeback in our Massachusetts waters. They are three- to four-foot long aquatic members of the weasel family. They were wiped out of this area many years ago because of water pollution and too many humans taking over their habitat. They eat fish, frogs and other aquatic life, and have always been vulnerable to concentrations of harmful chemicals in the water.
After a few hours, I gave up my search and decided to head home for a warm lunch with my wife. When I arrived, she told me that someone had called to leave me an important message.
It was a good friend of mine who had just observed two river otters in Sharon.
I smiled and thought how lucky we all are to live in this beautifully wild place called Sharon, Massachusetts. Many wonderful animals are out there for you to find; good luck on your journey.