Little effort has gone into assessing the threat of disease to wild North American river otter populations, so it is poorly understood and documented. From mid-winter through the breeding season, adult females move and den alone. Otters are commonly seen: Along the shorelines of inland lakes and Lake Superior exploring and hunting. However, urbanization and pollution instigated reductions in range area. The North American river otter (Lontra canadensis), also known as the northern river otter or common otter, is a semiaquatic mammal endemic to the North American continent found in and along its waterways and coasts. , The North American river otter was first described by German naturalist Johann Christian Daniel von Schreber in 1777. ), shiners (Notropis and Richardsonius spp. An otter's tail is long and tapered, thickest where it joins the body and furred its entire length. However, it is sensitive to pollution, and will disappear from tainted areas. North American river otters rely upon play to learn survival skills such as fighting and hunting. Weaning occurs at 12 weeks, and females provide solid food for their progeny until 37–38 weeks have transpired. The first ever giant river otter cub born in Asia arrived at Wildlife Reserves Singapore just this last August, UPI reports.Dr. In addition, North American river otters can contract jaundice, hepatitis, feline panleucopenia, and pneumonia.  Trappers in Alberta, Canada commonly assert North American river otters are major predators of North American beavers. A Painted Turtle's Life Cycle From Egg to Adult, How to Know the Difference Between a Female & Male Sea Turtle. , The diet of the North American river otter can be deduced by analyzing either stool obtained in the field, or gut contents removed from trapped otters. But there is one species, the Asian small-clawed otter, which could be legal in some states. Its body length ranges from 66 to 107 centimetres (26 to 42 in). Reintroduction projects have been particularly valuable in restoring populations in many areas of the United States. 216pp.  An average adult male weighs about 11.3 kilograms (25 lb) against the female's average of 8.3 kilograms (18 lb). Water quality and development inhibit recovery of populations in some areas. North American river otters are active year-round, and are most active at night and during crepuscular hours.  Specific species of reptiles and amphibians prey include: boreal chorus frogs (Pseudacris maculata); Canadian toads (Bufo hemiophrys); wood frogs (Rana sylvatica); bullfrogs (Rana catesbeiana); green frogs (Rana clamitans); northwestern salamanders (Ambystoma gracile); Pacific giant salamander (Dicamptodon ensatus); rough-skinned newt (Taricha granulosa); and garter snakes (Thamnophis). HABITAT. River Otters Have 11 Names. Shape The World. ALL RIGHTS RESERVED. When females leave, they tend to move much further away (60–90 km or 37–56 mi) than males (up to 30 km or 19 mi), which tend to move shorter distances. Other great locations are where aquatic life is …  Each otter pup weighs approximately five ounces. It was suggested the caves were generally far from the main river and were protected sites. The North American river otters may compete with the American mink (Mustela vison) for resources.  In Georgia, crayfish accounted for two-thirds of the prey in the summer diet, and their remnants were present in 98% of the summer spraint. In 1980, an examination conducted on U.S. river otter populations determined they were extirpated in 11 states, and had experienced drastic lapses in 9 others. Both males and family groups travel drastically less during winter. Prior to the arrival of the next litter, the North American river otter yearlings venture out in search of their own home ranges.. North American river otters also may use a birdlike chirp for communication over longer distances, but the most common sound heard among a group of otters is low-frequency chuckling. River otters are not territorial, but individual North American river otters of different groups portray mutual avoidance. Females are about 25 percent smaller than males. During walking, the limbs are moved in a plane parallel to the long axis of the body. , Amphibians and reptiles are more obtainable by the North American river otter during the spring and summer as a result of breeding activity, appropriate temperatures, and water supply for the prey. River Otter (Lutra canadensis Schreber) From: Saunders, D. A. North American river otters living in groups hunt and travel together, use the same dens, resting sites, and latrines, and perform allogrooming. Length: Adult river otters are about four to five and one-half feet long, including its 18-inch tail. These are features common to other otter … There is a delayed implantation and thus the total gestation time varies from 290 to 380 days.  Litter size can reach five, but usually ranges from one to three. The use of den and resting sites is chiefly opportunistic, although locations that provide protection and seclusion are preferred. Daily movements of family groups averaged 4.7, 4.4, and 2.4 km (2.9, 2.7, and 1.5 mi) in spring, summer, and winter, respectively. An entrance, which may be under water or above ground, leads to a nest chamber lined with leaves, grass, moss, bark, and hair. The playful North American river otter is equally at home in the water and on land. This allowed them to adjust to the seasons changing. The species name was Lutra canadensis. State University of New York, College of Environmental Science and Forestry. Information about river otter breeding and reproductive and social behavior is varied due to the difficulty of studying these animals in the wild. The North American river otter (Lontra canadensis) is a semiaquatic mammal in the weasel family.While it may simply be called the "river otter" in North America (to distinguish it from the sea otter) there are other river otter species throughout the world. North American river otters can remain underwater for nearly 4 minutes, swim at speeds approaching 11 km/h (6.8 mph), dive to depths nearing 20 m (22 yd), and travel up to 400 m (440 yd) while underwater. This dilemma prevents, and consequently inhibits, recolonization or growth of North American river otter populations. She taught high school and middle school English and drama for 11 years. Some studies indicate that river otters pair for only a few months during the breeding season and have no further strong bonds. ); Cyprinidae, made up of carp (Cyprinus spp. An adult North American river otter can weigh between 5.0 and 14 kg (11.0 and 30.9 lb). Males are generally larger than females. They're not slow creatures. In Idaho and Massachusetts, ecological elements preferred for latrine sites include large conifers, points of land, beaver bank dens and lodges, isthmuses, mouths of permanent streams, or any object that protrudes from the water. Despite its common name, the North American river otter is equally comfortable in either coastal marine or freshwater habitats. It can tolerate a great range of temperature and elevations. The otters migrated to North America and southwards again across the Panamanian Land Bridge, which formed 3 Mya. Since their reintroduction to Kentucky in the early 90s, they have recovered to the point that a trapping season was started in 2006, and the species is now found in all major waterways. So much so, that Massachusetts has an "Otter River". The actual embryonic development takes about 60-63 days . ), and other game fish during spawning. In coastal areas, males may remain gregarious even during the estrous period of females.  Likewise, the common carp (Cyprinus carpio) is a preferred fish species for the North American river otter in other regions of Colorado. At the tender age of 2 months, mama otter pushes the babies into the water for their first swim. Range. They have been virtually eliminated through many parts of their range, especially around heavily populated areas in the midwestern and eastern United States.  The North American river otter's nostrils and ears close during submersion, keeping water from entering them. The North American river otter has a delicate sense of touch in the paws in addition to great dexterity. Did you know? They have few natural predators, especially while in the water, but coyotes and wolves will hunt otters on land.  The oldest fossil record of an Old World river otter comes from the late Pliocene epoch (3.6 to 1.8 Mya).  Every study done on the food habits of the North American river otter has identified varying fish species as being the primary component of its diet. An otter is muscular, streamlined and solidly built. , Records of North American otters preying upon North American beavers (Castor canadensis) vary; it has been reported in the southern boreal forest of Manitoba.  North American river otters do not generally handle prey of a large size relative to themselves but there are occasions where they've been observed ambushing and killing adult common snapping turtles while the large turtles (which are roughly equal in average body weight to a North American river otter) are hibernating. , The range of the North American river otter has been significantly reduced by habitat loss, beginning with the European colonization of North America. Appearance and lifespan. Log jams are heavily used when present.  North American river otters only settle in areas that consist of vegetation, rock piles, and sufficient coverage.  Otters are known to take larger fish on land to eat, whereas smaller fish are consumed in the water.  The mammal was identified as a species of otter and has a variety of common names, including North American river otter, northern river otter, common otter and, simply, river otter. Recently, long-term genetic consequences of reintroduction projects on remnant North American river otter populations has been discussed. , North American river otters are renowned for their sense of play. , Although they consume birds, North American river otters do not feed on bird eggs. Although other prey species are of temporary significance to the North American river otter, the deciding factor whether the North American river otter can establish itself as a permanent resident of one location is the year-round availability of fish. Gestation. The species is also present throughout Alaska, including the Aleutian Islands, and the north slope of the Brooks Range. River otters can hold their breath for up to 8 minutes while under water. The ears are short, the neck is the same diameter as the head, the legs are short and powerful, the toes are fully webbed, and the tail (one-third of body length) is tapered. It establishes a burrow close to the water's edge in river, lake, swamp, coastal shoreline, tidal flat, or estuary ecosystems. Whelps are fully weaned by 3 months or 4 months. Although the distribution became reduced in some regions of southern Canada, the only province-wide extirpation occurred on Prince Edward Island. Environmental disasters, such as oil spills, may increase levels of blood haptoglobin and interleukin-6 immunoreactive protein, but decrease body mass. 1988.  North American river otter harvests correlate positively with the North American beaver harvests and with the average beaver pelt price from the preceding year. The den typically has many tunnel openings, one of which generally allows the otter to enter and exit the body of water. Lontra longicaudis. Musk from the scent glands may also be secreted when otters are frightened or angry.  At birth, the North American river otters are fully furred, blind, and toothless. Declines in the richness and diversity of prey species may explain these changes. A shorter trachea may improve air exchange and increase lung ventilation in diving mammals.. North American river otters have transparent nictitating membranes to protect their eyes while swimming. Copulation is vigorous, and is interrupted by periods of rest. An adult North American river otter can weigh between 5.0 and 14 kg (11.0 and 30.9 lb).  Remains of the much larger North American beaver have been found in North American river otter scat in some regions, although most otter dietary studies in areas where otters and beaver are sympatric do not show them to be regular predators of beavers (despite the claims of fur-trappers that otters frequently hunt beavers) and perhaps only young beaver kits may be attacked. However, North American river otters remain rare or absent in the southwestern United States. Giant otters have a life span of 12 years in the wild, 21 years in captivity. Aquatic predators include the American alligator (Alligator mississippiensis), American crocodile (Crocodylus acutus), and killer whale (Orcinus orca), none of which commonly coexist with the North American river otter and thus rarely pose a threat. The most common one is at the zoo. Meet a man whose roommates are a pair of river otters. Medicines for dogs are perfect for otter vaccination. The average river otter’s life span varies depending on whether the river otter lives in the wild or in captivity.  Game fish, such as trout (Salmonidae) and pike (Esocidae), are not a significant component of their diets. and redhorses (Moxostoma spp. ), daces (Rhinichthys spp. In Mexico, the North American river otters lived in the Rio Grande and Colorado River Deltas. In Idaho, juvenile, yearling, and adult males averaged 8, 11, and 17% heavier, respectively, than females of the same age. In Alaska, the two species living in marine environments indicate niche separation through resource partitioning, probably related to the swimming abilities of these mustelids. Fur of the North American river otter is thick and lustrous and is the most durable of Native American furs. The species is widely distributed throughout its range.  The tail makes up about a third of their total length. , North American river otters consume an extensive assortment of fish species ranging in size from 2 to 50 centimeters (0.79 to 19.69 in) that impart sufficient caloric intake for a minute amount of energy expenditure. The North American river otter (Lontra canadensis), also called the Canadian otter, is the most abundant species of otter.They are found throughout most of North America – from the Rio Grande in Northern Mexico to Canada and Alaska. In addition, the length of the trachea of the North American river otter is intermediate between that of terrestrial carnivores and marine mammals. Average Lifespan Wild: 8-9 years Captivity: 15-20 years Fun Facts. North American river otter pelts are used as the standard for rating the quality of other pelts.  When left unchecked, though, otter depredations can be quite significant under certain circumstances (e.g.  It differs from the European otter by its longer neck, narrower visage, the smaller space between the ears and its shorter tail. An adult Japanese otter was between 65 and 80 cm long, with a tail measuring 45 to 50 cm. Foot falls during walking and running follow the sequence of left limb, right limb, right limb, left limb. , Adult North American river otters are capable of consuming 1 to 1.5 kilograms (2.2 to 3.3 lb) of fish per day. The North American River Otter lives in rivers, lakes and wetlands all over New England. They host numerous endoparasites, such as nematodes, cestodes, trematodes, the sporozoan Isopora, and acanthocephalans. The most severe population declines occurred in interior regions where fewer aquatic habitats supported fewer otter populations. When the pups are about two months old and their coats grow in, their mother introduces them to the water. Consequently, many wildlife management agencies developed strategies to restore or enhance otter populations, including the use of reintroduction projects. Several North American river otters may even cooperate while fishing. Water pollution and other diminution of aquatic and wetland habitats may limit distribution and pose long-term threats if the enforcement of water quality standards is not upheld. , The North American river otter is more social than most mustelids. Lifespan: In the wild River Otters live less than 10 years. Vigil holds a Master of Science in teaching from Nova Southeastern University and a Bachelor of Arts in secondary English education from the University of Central Oklahoma. , Communication among North American river otters is accomplished mainly by olfactory and auditory signals. Lifespan. The North American river otter, a member of the subfamily Lutrinae in the weasel family (Mustelidae), is equally versatile in the water and on land. Little is known about the longevity of these animals, but one specimen lived 14.9 years old in captivity . As a result, slow-swimming fish are consumed more often than game fishes when both are equally available.  Young are born between February and April, and parturition lasts three to eight hours. Terrestrial predators include the bobcat (Lynx rufus), mountain lion (Puma concolor), coyote (Canis latrans), domestic dog (Canis lupus familiaris), wolf (Canis lupus), black bear (Ursus americanus) and (in young or small North American river otters) red fox (Vulpes vulpes) . The kits open their eyes after 30–38 days. She sometimes allows the pups to ride her back to teach them the art of swimming.  Its vibrissae (whiskers) are long and thick, enhancing sensory perception underwater and on land.  Other prey consumed by North American river otters includes fruits, reptiles, amphibians, birds (most especially moulting ducks which render the birds flightless and thus makes them easier to capture), aquatic insects, small mammals, and mollusks. Encounters between North American river otters and beavers are not necessarily hostile.  Bottom-dwelling species, which have the tendency to remain immobile until a predator is very close, are susceptible to North American river otters. While current harvest strategies do not pose a threat to maintaining otter populations, harvest may limit expansion of otter populations in some areas. She doesn’t make her own den but takes over an existing one. However, playful behavior was found in only 6% of 294 observations in a study in Idaho, and was limited mostly to immature otters.. The river otter has a long, streamlined body with dense brown fur.  Fish species frequently found in the diets of the North American river otters include: Catostomidae, which consists of suckers (Catostomus spp.) Dating back to the 1880s, it was even seen in Tokyo.The population suddenly shrank in the 1930s, and the mammal nearly vanished. PART OF WILD SKY MEDIA | FAMILY & PARENTING, University of Georgia Museum of Natural History: Northern River Otter, PBS: Yellowstone Otters, Life of the Otter, National Geographic: American River Otter, Prospect Park Zoo: North American River Otter. Eyes are small and placed anteriorly. After the parents breed and an egg is fertilized, the embryo becomes inactive in a stage called delayed implantation. A mature male otter weighs 10 to 25 pounds and is 30 to 40 inches in length, plus a 12- to 15-inch tail. Reintroduction of river otters may present a problem in that it may contaminate the genetic structure of the native population. , In early spring, expectant mothers begin to look for a den where they can give birth.  Cases where they've been ambushed and consumed by grizzly bears (Ursus arctos horribilis) and polar bears (Ursus maritimus) have also been reportedly witnessed near the Arctic region. It had a thick, lush coat of dark brown fur with short webbed feet. Female estrus lasts about a month per year, and true gestation lasts 61–63 days. In Idaho, North American river otters prefer valley habitats over mountainous terrain, and they select valley streams over valley lakes, reservoirs, and ponds. In captivity they live 10 - 15 years. Male North American river otters disperse from such family groups more often than females.  The few occurrences of mammals found in the North American river otter's diet include: muskrats (Ondatra zibethicus); meadow voles (Microtus pennsylvanicus); eastern cottontails (Sylvilagus floridanus); and snowshoe hares (Lepus americanus). River otters spend two-thirds of the time on … Discover How Long Sea otter Lives. In some regions, though, their population is controlled to allow the trapping and harvesting of otters for their pelts.  Other fish an integral part of the North American river otters' diets are those that are often plentiful and found in large schools: sunfish (Lepomis spp.  A 1994 river otter study reported findings of beaver remains in 27 of 1,191 scats analyzed. The body of the river otter measures between 65 cm to 105 cm (25 to 41 inches) in length and the tail measures 32 to 45 cm (12 to 17 inches) in length. In Maine, use of watersheds by North American river otters is negatively associated with the proportion of mixed hardwood-softwood stands in forested areas adjacent to waterways. The claws are well-formed and facial vibrissae (about 5 mm (0.20 in) long) are present.  About one-third of the animal's total length consists of a long, tapered tail. Otter is one of the mammal species of predators, which is included in the Mustelidae family. These include mudminnows (Umbra limi) and sculpins (Cottus spp.). North American river otters also inhabit the forested regions of the Pacific coast in North America. , North American river otters swim by quadrupedal paddling, forelimb paddling, alternate hind-limb paddling, simultaneous hind-limb paddling, or body and tail dorsoventral undulation. Accidental deaths may be the result of ice flows or shifting rocks. Adaptations: River otters are well suited for their semi-aquatic lifestyle. Be Her Village. , The right lung of the North American river otter is larger than the left, having four lobes compared with two for the left. in hatcheries or other fish culture facilities). , Amphibians, where regionally accessible, have been found in the North American river otter's diet during the spring and summer months, as indicated in many of the food habit studies. North American river otter inhabitation is affected by type, distribution, and density of aquatic habitats and characteristics of human activities. The maximum weight and length of both sexes are attained at three to four years of age. However, improvements in water quality (through enactment of clean water regulations) and furbearer management techniques have permitted river otters to regain portions of their range in many areas. What do they look like? , North American river otters often reside in beaver ponds. , Like other otters, the North American river otter lives in a holt, or den, constructed in the burrows of other animals, or in natural hollows, such as under a log or in river banks. Small fish are eaten at the surface, but larger ones are taken to the shore to be consumed. Newborn river otters are called kits, pups or whelps. The fur is a rich brown, moderately short, and very dense.  They have long bodies, and long whiskers that are used to detect prey in dark waters. Appearance. Since they swim so much, and get much of their food from the water, holding their breath for a long time … , CS1 maint: multiple names: authors list (, "Expert says otter attacks are rare after St. Pete dog killed", "Dog attacked by otters in Lakewood, homeowners say", "7 Surprising Facts About the Giant River Otter", "Multigene phylogeny of the Mustelidae: Resolving relationships, tempo and biogeographic history of a mammalian adaptive radiation", 10.1644/1545-1410(2002)712<0001:LM>2.0.CO;2, "North American River Otter – National Wildlife Federation", "Basic Facts About North American River Otters", "Distribution and abundance of river otter in Voyageurs National Park, Minnesota", "Food habits of the river otter in Suisun Marsh, Central California", "Feeding relationships of river otters in northeastern Pennsylvania", Food habits of the North American river otter (, "Social Networks and the Formation and Maintenance of River Otter Groups", "Art Lander's Outdoors: Once endangered river otters now likely to be found in Kentucky for generations", Colorado Otters May No Longer Need Protection, "Final report of the North American river otter research project on the Upper Colorado River Basin in and adjacent to Rocky Mountain National Park, Colorado", COSEWIC assessment and status report on the Grizzly Bear, https://en.wikipedia.org/w/index.php?title=North_American_river_otter&oldid=989875112, Articles with unsourced statements from May 2009, Creative Commons Attribution-ShareAlike License, This page was last edited on 21 November 2020, at 14:52. After implantation, the gestation period is 63 to 65 days.  Fossils of a giant river otter dating back 3.5 Mya have been found in the US Midwest; however, fossils of the modern river otter did not appear in North America until about 1.9 Mya. wild Neotropical river otter have a life expectancy of 11 years (Berry 2000), and surpasses it in captivity. Data has shown that the river otter would shed their under fur fully from May to August. There have also been some reports of river otters attacking and even drowning dogs.  However, river otters will prey on trout, pike, walleye (Sander vitreus vitreus), salmon (Oncorhynchus spp. , Habitat degradation and pollution are major threats to their conservation; North American river otters are highly sensitive to pollution and readily accumulate high levels of mercury, organochloride compounds, and other chemical elements. North American river otters are very susceptible to the effects of environmental pollution, which is a likely factor in the continued decline of their numbers. Even such fast-swimming species as trout become lethargic in extremely cold water, with a commensurate increase in their vulnerability to predation. Otters that live in nature can live even longer if it wasn’t for the construction activity expansion by humans . Fish are the primary component of the North American river otter's diet throughout the year. When at play or traveling, they sometimes give off low, purring grunts. The North American river otters may leave the den by eight weeks and are capable of sustaining themselves upon the arrival of fall, but they usually stay with their families, which sometimes include the father, until the following spring.  A study conducted on captive otters revealed they preferred larger fish, ranging from 15 to 17 centimeters (5.9 to 6.7 in), more than smaller fish, ranging from 8 to 10 centimeters (3.1 to 3.9 in), and they had difficulty catching fish species less than 10 centimeters (3.9 in) or larger than 17 centimeters (6.7 in). Fish is a favored food among the otters, but they also consume various amphibians (such as salamanders and frogs), freshwater clams, mussels, snails, small turtles and crayfish. A North American river otter's main requirements are a steady food supply and easy access to a body of water. It is the otter species with the widest distribution, being spread widely across Europe.  Though they have few predators outside of humans, they can scoot away from danger on land at a speed of 18 miles per hour. ACTIVITY. Different studies have placed the breeding season in winter, late spring and summer. In addition the river otter has two types/sets of fur. ); darters (Etheostoma spp. For example, a study conducted in a central California marshland indicated crayfish formed nearly 100% of the river otter's diet at certain times of the year. The giant otter is well suited for an aquatic life, and can close its ears while underwater. The North American river otter is found throughout North America, inhabiting inland waterways and coastal areas in Canada, the Pacific Northwest, the Atlantic states, and the Gulf of Mexico. , North American river otters live an average of 21 years of age in captivity, but they can reach 25 years of age. The pelage has a high luster and varies from light brown to black. The most common fish consumed are perch, suckers, and catfish. River otter lifespan is 5-8 years in the wild. North American river otters are not scavengers; they avoid consuming carrion. Without special training, most people can hold their breath for 30 seconds to a minute before they are pretty uncomfortable.  Females may caterwaul during or shortly after mating. In many places, the populations have re-established themselves because of conservation initiatives. During the breeding, the male grabs the female by the neck with his teeth. In all habitats, their basic social group is the family, consisting of an adult female and her progeny. , North American river otters are highly mobile and have the capacity of traveling up to 42 km (26 mi) in one day. The smell and hearing abilities of the North American river otter are acute.  Other documented common names are American otter, Canada otter, Canadian otter, fish otter, land otter, nearctic river otter, and Prince of Wales otter. North American river otters are natural swimmers and, with parental supervision, they acquire the skills necessary to swim. The throat, chin, and lips are grayer than the rest of the body.  The North American river otter existed on all parts of the Pacific Coast, including the seashore and inland streams and lakes.  In 2010, the Colorado Department of Wildlife reported the species, reintroduced in the 1980s, was "thriving" and recommended its protection status be reconsidered. It has a long tail that is thick at the base, tapers toward the tip and grows to 12 to 19 inches in length. Adult males also commonly establish enduring social groupings, some documented to comprise as many as 17 individuals. Females generally begin reproducing at the age of two. It has a wide, rounded head with small ears and long, white whiskers. Females give birth to litters of one to five pups 10 to 12 months after mating. After the parents breed and an egg is fertilized, the embryo becomes inactive in a stage called delayed implantation. These qualities give the North American river otter a streamlined profile in water, but reduce agility on land. The embryo won’t implant in the female’s uterus until environmental conditions are the most favorable for survival following birth. Males can start breeding at the same time but have more success when they are older. Starvation may occur due to excessive tooth damage. Family groups may include helpers, which can be made up of unrelated adults, yearlings, or juveniles. Home ranges of North American river otters increase in size on oiled areas compared to unoiled areas, and individual otters also modify their habitat use. Since 1976, over 4,000 otters have been reintroduced in 21 U.S. states. Based in Las Vegas, Sandy Vigil has been a writer and educator since 1980. Range lifespan Status: captivity 21 (high) years; Typical lifespan Status: wild 8 to 9 years; Average lifespan Status: wild 8-9 years; How do they behave? Fur of senescent river otters may become white-tipped, and rare albinos may occur. The Japanese river otter (Japanese: ニホンカワウソ(日本川獺 ー, Hepburn: Nihon-kawauso) (Lutra lutra whiteleyi) is an extinct variety of otter formerly widespread in Japan. 671 Sample size Medium Data quality Acceptable Observations. By the early 1900s, North American river otter populations had declined throughout large portions of their historic range in North America. Life history traits (averages) Female sexual maturity Male sexual maturity Gestation 57 days Weaning They weigh about 5 ounces and don’t open their eyes until they are 4 weeks old. When a copious supply of food dwindles or other prey becomes available, North American otters either transfer to a new location or convert their dietary choices to the most adequate prey. The North American river otters avoid water bodies with gradually sloping shorelines of sand or gravel. As the front feet make contact with the ground, the back feet are lifted and land where the front paws first contacted the ground, producing a pattern of tracks in pairs typical of most mustelids. Crustaceans may even be consumed more than fish. , North American river otters typically breed from December to April. © 2020 WILD SKY MEDIA. ); and perches (Perca spp.). , Lontra canadensis is listed in Appendix II of the Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species of Wild Fauna and Flora. North American river otters also may use hollow trees or logs, undercut banks, rock formations, backwater sloughs, and flood debris. Otter Spotter The northern river otter is the most aquatic member of the weasel family. Otter Brigade image by Mr. Welton from Fotolia.com. , Although commonly called a "river otter", the North American river otter is found in a wide variety of aquatic habitats, both freshwater and coastal marine, including lakes, rivers, inland wetlands, coastal shorelines, marshes, and estuaries. A river otter can grow three to four feet (0.9 to 1.2 meters) long including its tail and weigh between 11 and 30 pounds (5 to 14 kilograms). Otter fur is a rich, dark brown and is lighter on the … All of the otter species should have a habitat that allows them to move from land to the water. Kits live with their mother until the next breeding season, which is between a year and a year and a half. What Are the Differences Between Male and Female Bottlenose Dolphins. Eurasian otters (Lutra lutra) are semiaquatic, which means they split their time between land and water. , Aquatic life ties North American river otters almost exclusively to permanent watersheds. However, it is positively associated with the number of beaver flowages, watershed length, and average shoreline diversity. The North American river otter scent-marks with feces, urine, and possibly anal sac secretions. The North American River Otter is very streamlined, having a muscular body with short legs, webbed toes and a long muscular tail. The alarm call, given when shocked or distressed by potential danger, is an explosive snort, made by expelling air through the nostrils. Trapping, loss or degradation of aquatic habitats through filling of wetlands, and development of coal, oil, gas, tanning, timber, and other industries, resulted in extirpations, or declines, in North American river otter populations in many areas. While they enjoy playing with others, river otters are typically solitary mammals that trek up and down miles of river bank each year. A river otter's life begins in an unusual way. North American river otters also currently inhabit coastal regions throughout the United States and Canada.  Den sites include burrows dug by woodchucks (Marmota monax), red foxes (Vulpes vulpes), nutria (Myocastor coypus), or beaver and muskrat lodges.  Slow-moving species include suckers (Catostomidae), catfish, sunfish and bass (Centrarchidae), daces, carp, and shiners (Cyprinidae). During the dry season, they will recede from the marshland and move to permanent ponds, where water is available and food is in greater supply. , Oil spills present a localized threat to otter populations, especially in coastal areas. The tail, which is stout and larger in surface area than the limbs, is used for stability while swimming and for short bursts of rapid propulsion. , Aquatic invertebrates have been recognized as an integral part of the North American river otter's diet. They are absent from Argentina, Chile, and Uruguay. The rhinarium is bare, with an obtuse, triangular projection. The otter’s fur is thick but fine, lustrous deep brown to almost black in color, with the exception of the chin and throat which are lighter. A clinal reduction in size may exist from north to south along the Pacific coast, but not from east to west.  Invertebrates discovered within scats or digestive tracts could most likely be a secondary food item, first being consumed by the fish that are subsequently preyed upon by the North American river otters. North American river otters dry themselves and uphold the insulative quality of their fur by frequent rubbing and rolling on grass, bare ground, and logs. They may migrate as a result of food shortages or environmental conditions, but they do not migrate annually. , The North American river otter is physically well-equipped for aquatic life. They are known as playful animals, often seen sliding in mud and snow and playing in the water. Sunning themselves by the water’s edge. North American river otters may be victims of canine distemper, rabies, respiratory tract disease, and urinary infection. ); and Ictaluridae, which consists of bullheads and catfish (Ictalurus spp.). A highly active predator, the North American river otter has adapted to hunting in water, and eats aquatic and semiaquatic animals. Sliding across snow and ice is a rapid and efficient means of travel, and otters traveling over mountain passes, between drainages, or descending from mountain lakes often slide continuously for several hundred meters. Annual harvest numbers of North American river otters are similar for Canada and the United States, with most pelts being used in the garment industry. The Japanese River Otter was only found in Japan, mainly in wetland a…  Instances of North American river otters eating small mammals, such as mice and squirrels, and occasionally birds have been reported as well. In Idaho, North American river otters and beavers were recorded in the same beaver lodge simultaneously on three separate occasions. River otters have dens on land in which to sleep and have their babies.  Large male North American river otters can exceed a weight of 15 kilograms (33 lb). Also known as Lontra Canadensis, the North American river otter has a playful nature that captures the attention of those fortunate enough to watch. By the 1970s, otters were restricted mainly to Scotland, especially the islands and the north-west coast, western Wales, parts of East Anglia and the West Country (though they remained …  Tail lengths range from 30 to 50 centimetres (12 to 20 in). OUR DATA: We use the most recent data from these primary sources: AnAge, UMICH, Max Planck, PanTHERIA, Arkive, UKC, AKC. Neotropical river otter Synonyms Lutra longicaudis Lifespan, ageing, and relevant traits Maximum longevity Not yet established Observations. , During the winter and spring, when the water levels were higher, North American river otters had a greater tendency to prey upon crayfish (73% of scats had crayfish remains) rather than fish. While swimming at the surface, the dorsal portion of the North American river otter's head, including nostrils, ears, and eyes, is exposed above water.  However, when water levels are lower, crayfish will seek out shelter while fish become more highly concentrated and susceptible to predation. North American river otters live alone or in family groups of, usually, females and their young. , The North American river otter is sexually dimorphic. General description: The otter is perfectly suited for an aquatic life. They become much more nocturnal in the spring, summer, and fall seasons, and more diurnal during winter. The female otters do not dig their own dens; instead, they rely on other animals, such as beavers, to provide suitable environments to raise their offspring. These names are: river otter, North American river otter, northern river otter, common otter, American otter, Canada otter, Canadian otter, fish otter, land otter, nearctic river otter, and the Prince of Wales otter. North America's largest North American river otter populations were found in areas with an abundance and diversity of aquatic habitats, such as coastal marshes, the Great Lakes region, and glaciated areas of New England. , The fur of the species is short (guard hairs average 23.8 mm (0.94 in)), with a density of about 57,800 hairs/cm2 (373,000 hairs/in2) in the midback section.  For instance, Catostomidae are the primary dietary component of North American river otters in Colorado's Upper Colorado River Basin. The Basics. They are born with a full fur coat and teeth already emerging.  North American river otters characteristically approach within a few feet of a boat or a person on shore because they're near-sighted, a consequence of vision adapted for underwater sight. ), chubs (Semotilus spp. , North American river otters, like most predators, prey upon the most readily accessible species.  The species epithet canadensis means "of Canada". The species is often used as a bioindicator because of its position at the top of the food chain in aquatic ecosystems. The North American otter’s mating season is in the later winter and early spring – roughly March and April. Reduced lobulation of the lungs is presumed to be adaptive for underwater swimming. A Eurasian otter can hold its breath for twice that long, quite easily! The mean tracheal length of the North American river otter is 15.3 cm (6.0 in), or 23.2% of the body length. Acid drainage from coal mines is a persistent water quality issue in some areas, as it eliminates otter prey. Male North American river otters do not seem to be territorial, and newly dispersing males may join established male groups.  Crustaceans (crayfish), where regionally available, are the second-most important prey for otters. , North American river otters are polygynous. All Canadian provinces except Prince Edward Island and 29 U.S. states have viable populations that sustain annual harvests. It is a European branch of the weasel or Mustelidae family. , The North American river otter is a stocky animal of 5 to 14 kilograms (11 to 31 lb), with short legs, a muscular neck (no smaller than the head) and an elongated body that is broadest at the hips.  The number of corpora lutea increases directly with age. The otter is a secretive semi-aquatic species which was once widespread in Britain. Adirondack Mammals. Its feet are webbed.  However, many other studies did not report any findings of North American beaver remains in the scat sampled. Resolution of such conflicts will usually require removal and/or relocation of nuisance otters. Likewise, the potential predatory impact of otters may be considerable whenever fish are physically confined (most commonly in smaller ponds offering sparse cover or other escape options). It must remain in motion to maintain its position at the surface.  Susceptibility of these species is greatest during the summer (when waterfowl broods are vulnerable) and autumn. Molecular biological techniques have been used to determine when the river otter and the giant otter (Pteronura brasiliensis) of South America diverged. How long can you hold your breath? Sliding occurs mostly on even surfaces of snow or ice, but can also occur on grassy slopes and muddy banks. , Historical records indicate North American river otters were once populous throughout most major drainages in the continental United States and Canada prior to European settlement.  However, large populations never occurred in areas of Southern California such as the chaparral and oak woodlands and Mojave Desert seasonal waterway regions, or in the xeric shrubland regions in New Mexico, Texas, Nevada, and Colorado. Empower Her. You can usually observe feeding times at the zoos too which is fun. Otter have been known to live sixteen years in captivity, and may live 10 – 20 yrs in the wild. Its throat and belly are golden or silvery brown. The river otter was first identified in 1777. Males are sexually mature at two years of age.  During winter, the North American river otters heavily use openings in the ice, and may excavate passages in beaver dams for accessing open water.