North America River Otter

STATUSLeast Concern

COMMON NAME (SCIENTIFIC NAME)Lontra canadensis

DIETfish, frogs, crayfish, shellfish, and small rodents

RANGEThroughout Alaska, Canada, and the United States.

HABITATRivers, streams, lakes, ponds, wetlands, and coastal shorelines

North America River Otter

North American River Otters have a long, streamlined body with a broad head, short legs, webbed toes and a long powerful tail. The face has a bulbous nose, small eyes, and vibrissae (whiskers near mouth). The small ears and nostrils can be closed when the animal is in water. Otters have sleek, dark brown fur that is short and dense, with a heavy, soft, oily underfur overlain by glossy, smooth guard hairs. The fur underneath is lighter brown than that on top.

Diet: As carnivores they are primarily fish eaters but will also consume frogs, crayfish and shellfish as well as small rodents. They will, also, hunt on land for mice and rabbits.

Habitat: River otters live in many different kinds of water habitats throughout North America, including rivers, streams, lakes, ponds, wetlands, coastal shorelines, and marshes.

Life Cycle/ Social Structure: Male and female river otters only interact during mating season (late winter to early spring). Males often breed with multiple females, likely those whose home range overlaps their own. Gestation lasts two months, however young may be born up to a year after mating because otters can delay implantation of fertilized eggs for up to eight months. Births occur between November and May, with a peak in March and April. Females give birth to an average of three pups in a den near the water.

Predators: Alligators, bobcats, and coyotes all prey on river otters.

Interesting Facts:

North American River Otters can remain underwater for 8 minutes and can shut both their nostrils and ears so no water can leak in.

River Otters possess specialized vision that enables them to catch prey in dark and unclear waters. Also their whiskers can detect vibrations to help pinpoint their prey.