I had an interesting encounter with wildlife while coaching last Friday, April 2. I was about 7 miles upstream of the Dartmouth dock, coaching two varsity eights, with volunteer coach Todd Pearson and coxswain Kate Johnson in the launch with me. The crews were turning around when we saw an otter on the banks of the river, running across the shore ice. He jumped in the water and swam toward our stopped motorboat, and seemed to play in the leftover wake. We've seen plenty of wildlife up here, but seeing an otter up close was a treat. He got close enough so that we got a really good look at him - 2 feet long, not including a 6 inch tail, thick whiskers.
I turned off the motor to make sure he didn't get hurt by the propellor. He got closer and swam under the boat. Then he started chewing on the back of the motor. Then he started trying to climb into the boat. I got a small wooden paddle and tried to push his head back whenever it popped over the gunnell. He kept at it, and soon slipped by me and jumped into the motorboat. He then came after us.
I tried to use the paddle to push him back into the water. Todd Pearson grabbed a old cone-style coach megaphone and readied the open end as a makeshift bucket. After a few otter lunges, we reached a standoff with the otter hissing at us in the back of the motorboat, chewing on the end of my wooden paddle. The otter attacked again. I managed to get my paddle under him when he climbed over the bench seat, and flipped him back into the water like a pancake. This discouraged him and he swam back to shore. My next thought was what would happen if the otter jumped into a shell, and we got the crews moving quickly.
Later, I called a local resident who said her son had been attacked by same otter, but the boy's rubber boots saved him from any injury.
Dartmouth Men's Varsity Heavyweight Coach