River Otter

River Otter (Lontra canadensis)

River Otters are arguably the most happy-go-lucky mammal in all of North America. Otters are curious creatures of boundless enthusiasm.

They are one of the few animals that engage in play even as full grown adults. They play tag, dive for pebbles, slide in groups down mud and snow slides. 

Otters are happy in any kind of weather, they have few predators and enjoy a food supply that is plentiful enough for them to be able to lounge around and amuse themselves. They are streamlined as seals and can catch fish with ease. 

These otters swim by propelling themselves with their powerful tails and flexing their long bodies. They also have webbed feet, water repellent fur to keep them dry and warm, and nostrils and ears that close in the water. 

They remain active in winter, using ice holes to surface and breathe.

Otters dry themselves and uphold the insulative quality of their fur by frequent rubbing and rolling on grass, bare ground, and logs.

River otters, members of the weasel family, hunt at night and feed on whatever might be available. Fish are a favorite food, but they also eat amphibians, turtles, and crayfish.. 

Highly sensitive whiskers assist otters to probe darkened water at night and under the ice in the winter, picking up waves fanned by prey.

In the winter, they have no trouble getting around and going about their business. They can use their bodies like a sleigh and travel over land between bodies of water. To get through the ice, they break through at weak points around logs,  rocks or stumps.  They can also catch a breath in air pockets beneath the ice.

Beavers create ideal habitat for Otters, so they coexist in the same areas and easily get along because of their completely different diets.    

Otters occassionally live in old bank burrows made by muskrats and beavers. They utilize uprooted trees of flooded stumps, rock crevices, and dense submerged thickets of willow and alders. 

Otters swim up to 10km per hour and can stay under water for 4 minutes. They can run and slide in snow at up to 30km per hour. 

They are surprisingly fast on land and can easily outrun a human.  

 River Otters are very vocal and have a wide variety of sounds including snorts, grunts, sniffs, growls, hisses, chirps and whistles.