Image Source: Flickr. By: Eric Begin.

Image Source: Flickr. By: Eric Begin.

The winter season is a vicious, cruel, and deadly one. Severe weather conditions and icy roads cause pile-ups and crashes; illness and death stalk the unprepared; and freak accidents are bound to happen. With such bleak prospects, it’s no wonder moods tend to dwindle during this time of year. However, there are times when a wintry, life threatening event may be nothing more than a rather amusing case of mistaken identity.

Last Thursday, witnesses reported a snowmobiler struggling to escape Moosehead Lake’s East Outlet in Maine. The 3 onlookers claimed the victim was wearing an all black outfit (helmet included) and was near Wilsons campground. Officials were quick to jump to the rescue, searching by boat and air for signs of a body. Nothing was found.

Another 5 hour search was conducted on Friday. Warden diver, Bruce Loring, and other game wardens searched a 150-by-200-foot area of water and nearby forest. Again, nothing was found. Well, at least no signs of a human.

It turns out the so-called snowmobiler in distress was most likely an otter having a tasty snack. Pieces of crayfish and a small bloodstain were found on the ice near where they person would have fallen in. It was also confirmed that there were, indeed, otters in the area. There were, however, no signs of a snowmobiler, tracks, or any form of equipment in sight. Also, given the lack of a missing person’s report and the sunlight reflecting off the ice gives a strong indication that the witnesses were simply mistaken.

Officials cannot say for certain that a drowning did not occur, but given the evidence (or lack thereof), there is a strong indication that no one was in harm’s way and the search was called off. Still, it is amusing to think that all this commotion was caused by a hungry little otter.

Have you ever mistaken an animal for something else? If so, what animal was it and what did you think it was?