North American River Otter

North American River Otter Lontra canadensis

Type of Animal:

Freshwater & marine habitats-rivers, streams, lakes, ponds, marshes, wetlands, coastal waters, coastal shorelines, estuaries, permanent watersheds, high elevation/mountain waters, water’s edges, swamps, creeks, bogs, permanent pools, desert canyons (w/ water), tidal flats, strong preference for unpolluted water

N America except for parts of SW-once found in Alaska, Canada, & most of continental US-still occurs but rare in C US. Most common in E US, W US, Canada, & Alaska.

Streamlined body, short legs, muscular neck, brown coloration, long tail, long whiskers, flat head, webbed feet

Fish, amphibians, crayfish, turtles, insects, small mammals, eggs, clams, aquatic roots/tubers, crabs, birds, macroalgae, aquatic leaves, mussels, snails, snakes, crocodilian hatchlings

Status in Wild:

Breeding in zoos, aquariums, & wildlife centers. Reintroductions into areas of former range.

Solitary, male-female pairs, sibling groups, all-male groups, & loose groups of up to 17 otters. Males sometimes participate in pup rearing but only after pups learn how to swim. Sometimes, older sibling (s) from previous litter help out w/ younger siblings. Females have litters of 1-6 pups.

Additional Info:

Male: Dog
Female: Bitch
Young: Pup
Group: Romp

Male: 25 lbs
Female: 18 lbs
Young: 2.5 lbs

2 months 

Life Span:
10-12 years in wild, 20-21 years in captivity

Body Length:
Male: 3.7 ft
Female: 2.8-3 ft

Tail Length:
Male: 1.23 ft
Female: 1 ft

Main predators are bears, crocodilians, raptors, bobcats, coyotes, dogs, mountain lions/cougars, wolves, orcas/killer whales, foxes, & pythons (in Florida).
More diurnal in winter & more nocturnal/crepuscular in other times of year.
They’re quite playful.
Whiskers detect movement in water.
Can swim as fast as 8 mph & dive as deep as 36 ft.
Scent mark areas by urinating/defecating and/or emitting strong, musky odor from paired scent glands near tail base.
Make variety of vocalizations such as whistles, buzzes, twitters, staccato chuckles, chirps, & growls. When threatened/frightened, emit hair-raising scream that can be heard up to 1.5 miles across water.
1st learn to swim at around 2 months & become sexually mature at a year old.

Fun Fact(s):
Though nearsighted, they see very well underwater.
Despite cute appearance, they can be dangerous, especially moms w/ pups. Protective moms have even killed/drowned dogs & groups mob attack predators (dogs being one of them). They also have very sharp teeth.
They don’t dig own dens utilizing natural denning space, holes created by other mammals, or beaver/muskrat lodges.

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