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Winter wildlife watch: Here's where to find bald eagles, snowy owls and river otters in Northeast Ohio

Eagles and owls and otters, oh my!
Credit: Courtesy ODNR Wildlife Division
Courtesy ODNR Wildlife Division

CLEVELAND — It may be winter in Northeast Ohio, but there's no shortage of nature and wildlife to be seen.

While some animals retreat into hibernation when the snow and cold hit, other creatures thrive. Bald eagles begin nesting in January, river otters slip and slide on the snow and snowy owls perch in places where they can blend in among a white backdrop.

Finding these animals can be tricky, especially as heavy snow and ice hit the area, but if you know where to look, you just might catch a glimpse of them.

Here are the best places to find some of your favorite winter wildlife, according to the Ohio Department of Natural Resources Wildlife Division.

Bald eagles

Credit: Courtesy ODNR Wildlife Division
Courtesy ODNR Wildlife Division

It's nesting season, so look up! Eagles can be seen carrying sticks to their nest sites, which are commonly near sizable bodies of water. 

When looking for eagles, keep in mind that brown eagles are juveniles, as bald eagles won't develop their characteristic white heads and tails until they're a few years old. 

Bald eagles are widespread, meaning you shouldn't have to venture too far to find them. Head to the Lake Erie shoreline in Cleveland for a chance to see one soaring above the water. ODNR recommends hanging out at Wendy Park/Whiskey Island, just east of Edgewater Beach.

Another popular nesting spot for eagles is Pinery Narrows in the Cuyahoga Valley National Park in Brecksville, where the same pair of eagles has nested since 2007. Keep in mind that portions of the park may close to pedestrian traffic in order to give the eagles space.

RELATED: Bald eagles are flocking to Cleveland's Industrial Valley

Snowy owls

Credit: Courtesy ODNR Wildlife Division
Courtesy ODNR Wildlife Division

Snowy owl sightings have been reported across the area in recent weeks. ODNR says birders often report seeing them at Burke Lakefront Airport in Cleveland. While birders can't step on airport grounds due to security measures, ODNR recommends looking near the airport fence along North Marginal Road. 

Snowy owls have also been seen perched on the breakwalls of the E. 55th Street Marina, and have been spotted soaring above the Shoreway near Edgewater Park.

RELATED: Ohio's first ‘snowy’ owl of the winter season spotted in Trumbull County

ODNR also suggests bringing binoculars or a spotting scope. Since snowy owls are hard to spot, ODNR says to look for what appears to be a stack of newspapers sitting on the ground.

To learn more about snowy owls, check out ODNR's "Owls of Ohio" guide, which you can receive for free by calling 1-800-WILDLIFE.

RELATED: Here's how to dispose of your Christmas tree while helping wildlife

River otters

Credit: Courtesy ODNR Wildlife Division
Courtesy ODNR Wildlife Division

River otters are the most elusive of the three animals mentioned here, but they're not impossible to find.

ODNR says your best bet at spotting one of these cute and furry creatures is at Beaver Marsh in the Cuyahoga Valley National Park, but don't mistake them for beavers or muskrats, which also dwell there. Otters are very social animals and will often appear in groups, whereas muskrats and beavers are more solitary creatures.

ODNR says dusk and dawn are the best times to spot a river otter. Since the water hasn't yet frozen over, otters should be active in the area. When the marsh does freeze, otters will likely hang out along the shoreline of the nearby Cuyahoga River. 

To learn more about river otters, check out ODNR's "Mammals of Ohio" guide, which you can receive for free by calling 1-800-WILDLIFE.

RELATED: ODNR creating wetlands to keep Lake Erie clean