The river otter has a long cylindrical body. Its total length ranges from 35-to 54 inches (89-137 cm). It weighs 11-33 pounds (5-15 kg). The thick, tapering tail measures 1/3 of the body length. The river otter has webbed feet with 5 toes and nonretractable claws.
It has a dark brown coat, with a silver-grey throat and white whiskers. Its pelt has short, dense underfur protected by longer, glossy guard hairs. Otter sign includes rolling areas of flattened vegetation, slides on river and snowbanks and troughs in soft snow up to 1 foot wide.
The river otter is found in rivers, ponds, lakes and unpolluted waters in wooded areas. Studies have been conducted to know the habitat preference of river otters. Key habitat components are riparian vegetation, temporary den and resting sites (cavities under tree roots, shrub patches, tall grass) and adequate food. It is active all year, mainly at night.
Air trapped in the fur insulates the river otter while underwater, where it can stay for up to 4 minutes. Long, stiff whiskers to locate prey and good underwater vision aid in hunting success.
The river otter is sexually mature at 2 years, breeding in early spring a secluded natal den site; the female has 2-3 pups (range site. Young leave the den at 2 months, are weaned by 3 months, but remain with the female until just prior to the birth of the mother’s next litter. It will occupy dens built by other animals, log jams and unused human structures.
What do River otters Eat?
River otters primarily eat fish. Other aquatic foods include frogs, crayfish and turtles, making the river otter a good barometer of water quality.
Where do River Otters Live?
The river otter is distributed throughout North America north of Mexico, except for extreme southwestern United States. In South Dakota, Hughes County has reported otters along the Missouri River, with unverified reports from adjacent counties.
Amazing Facts about River Otters
Here are some interesting facts about river otters.
- They are proficient swimmers and can stay underwater for up to eight minutes.
- They are very social creatures and often live in groups of up to 12 individuals.
- River otters are known for their playfulness, and they often engage in activities such as wrestling, chasing, and swimming on their backs.
- Otters have very powerful jaws and teeth that are specially adapted for crushing the shells of their prey. They can easily dispatch crabs, clams, and other hard-shelled creatures.
- Otters are incredibly skilled hunters and can take down prey that is much larger than they are. They typically feed on fish, but they will also eat rodents, birds, and other small animals.
- Otters have a thick coat of fur that helps keep them warm in cold water. This fur also acts as an insulator, helping to protect them from the cold air.
Conservation Measures For River Otters
The river otter is affected by channelizing habitat and eliminating riparian woodlands. It is vulnerable to trapping and hunting. Reintroduction efforts have been successful in a number of states, returning this furbearer to much of its former range.
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