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River Otter


River Otter

Quick Facts

Genus: Lontra canadensis

Location: North America

The Scoop

The Scoop

At Home On Land and In Water

River otters are found along rivers, streams, and lakes and also in estuaries, coastal bogs, and large marine waterways in Canada and in the USA. They are equally at home on land and in the water, and live in underground dens near the water’s edge. River otters are playful animals and love to slide down snow-covered, icy, or muddy hills—often ending with a splash in the water.  They prefer to rest during the day and are active at night. River otters are powerful swimmers and propel themselves forward by using their strong tails and flexing their sleek bodies.  They have webbed feet, water repellent fur to keep them dry and warm, and nostrils and ears that close in the water. They are active all year long and in the winter they use ice holes to surface and breathe.

River otters can be between three and four feet long. They can weigh up to 30 lbs, which is about the weight of an average three year old child. Fish are their favorite food, but they also eat amphibians, turtles, and crayfish. River otters are fish eaters, but climate changes are affecting the fish population. If fish populations start to decrease, river otters would lose their major food source, and their numbers will start to decline too. The river otter is also threatened by pollution of streams and rivers as well as the destruction of the vegetation on the banks of water bodies.

Did You Know?

  • River otters can hold their breath for up to 8 minutes underwater.
  • River otters can dive to a depth of up to 60 feet.
  • Otters always wash themselves after every meal.
  • River otters spend two-thirds of their time on land.