North American River Otter (Lutra canadensis)

These playful mammals are able to close their ears and nostrils when swimming under water. They can remain under water for six to eight minutes! When they swim they use their tails and back legs to push them through the water at speeds of up to 18 mph! River otters appear playful and cute however; they have very sharp teeth and powerful jaws.

Description: 

A river otter's long narrow body can range in length from 18"- 42 ", not including the tail. Weight can vary from 8 to 40 pounds with males larger than females. The brownish fur is short and dense. The muscular tail is thick at the base and tapers to the tip.

Habitat: 

Ponds and lakes in wooded areas, rivers, marshes, estuaries and marine coasts.

Range: 

North America except in the Midwest and portions of southwestern US.

Diet: 

Mostly fish, but also crabs, crayfish, waterfowl, eggs, turtles, fresh water clams and small mammals.

Life Span: 

15 years in the wild and 23 years in captivity.

Family Life: 

They are social animals except during the breeding season. Females have litters of 1-4 young (pups) after a 285-380 day gestation period. The pups stay with the female for one year.

Status: 

As a group, otters have suffered from habitat loss, water pollution and fur trapping. Their numbers are on the rise due to reintroduction programs in parts of the US, better water quality, and protection of their habitat.