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The otter is a shy animal, seldom seen by day, and yet it is a hovering creature. He is an amphibious animal, and will sometimes go forty or fifty rods under water without coming to the surface to breathe, while he frequently makes a land journey of two or three miles, to pass from one stream to another. When there is snow on the ground the otter travels mostly by sliding. He takes two or three steps and then turns over on his back and slides eight or ten feet, on the level, and much more on descending ground. They propel themselves along with their hind legs, which are quite long and partly web-footed. They are very fond of playing in the snow; they will seek out a steep place, directly at the water side, crawl to the top of it, and then face about and go head first down into the water; then up they climb and at it again, having great sport. One of these slides is the best place for catching the otter in a steel trap, which should be set with a heavy stone, chain, and strip of bark, exactly as described for the beaver, in about four inches of water near where they climb out to crawl up the slide.

The otter is a great hand to catch fish, and seems to have some means to attract them, and make them so tame that he can pick them up as he pleases. It is supposed by some that he drops his musk or oil in the water, and calls the fish in that way. How that is I don't pretend to know, but he has been seen to climb up on a big stone or log, and after sitting there a little while, to plunge into the water, soon returning with a pickerel or a sucker, when he would sit and eat it, and when finished, make a dive and fetch out another. One mode of hunting or trapping the otter is to take a vial of otter musk and go to some place where a log lies in a stream, with one end sticking out of the water. Set your trap on the log where the water is about four inches deep, and smear some of the musk on the upper end of the log. Or you may set your trap alongside of a stick or any other object, on which you can put the scent, taking a bush or sapling with the leaves on, sharpening its lower end and sticking it through the ring of the trap chain; then set it up in the water as though it grew there, for a clog to your trap and a mark to find it by.

In all of these preparations you must be careful to leave no sign of your having been around; every place where you have stood, and every thing you have touched, should be washed by having water thrown upon them.

It is better to set your traps with a canoe, or, in a small stream, by wading. In hunting for the otter, it is of no use to look anywhere, except where there are plenty of fish, for they live mostly on this food. They eat crawfish, and I think some clams, but I am not able to say whether they eat any kind of fowl They are to be found at the inlets of little lakes, and they frequent small streams that have trout and chub in them. They go into l>ig rivers, too, and they may be found in winter near quick water, where they will have holes through the ice at which they come up and feed. If the water is not more than a foot deep, fasten a big stone to your trap and set it down on the bottom, being careful to leave room for them to pass to and fro between the ice and the trap; otherwise they will spring it with the belly and not get caught. It must be at least a foot deep from the ice to the trap to allow them to get caught; and if the water is from three to six feet deep, bait the trap with a little trout, or dace, or sucker, fastened into the pan lengthwise of the trap. Then sink the trap, right side up, directly under the hole, and you will catch him by the nose, if the trap is smart enough. There are various other ways to outgeneral this sly, cunning animal. One of these is after this fashion. Go to the place where he . burrows in the bank, making a hole under water; set your trap directly in the mouth of the hole, and when he goes in or out, you will catch him. Another way is to find some bushy point under cedars or other thick trees, where the bank rises directly up from the water; there make a slide in the fall of the-year, that will look as though a log had been drawn endwise down into the water. Choose a handy place to set your trap, where the water is shoal at the edge and deepens rapidly. Sprinkle sweet oil or other musk about the slide. In early spring set your trap as directed above, and you will catch the first otter that comes along.

Thrasher, Halsey. The Hunter and Trapper. New York: Orange Judd and Company, 1808.

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