River otters use their powerful tails and long bodies to propel themselves through the water. Their webbed feet, water-repellent fur and ability to close their nostrils and ears underwater make them great swimmers. They even enjoy wintery polar dips – breathing through holes in the surface of the ice.
Otter populations are currently stable, but hunting for the fur, water pollution and other habitat destruction caused otters to decline in many parts of their range. River otters play an important part in healthy aquatic ecosystems.
At about two months old, otter moms give their pups a rough introduction to their watery homes when they push them into the water. Fortunately, otters are natural swimmers and, with a bit of help from mom and dad, the pups quickly get the hang of it.
At a Glance
5 – 14 kg (11 – 31 lb)
Freshwater and coastal marine habitats, including rivers, lakes, marshes and swamps in Canada and the United States.
Carnivore. River otters hunt at night for fish, their favourite food. They also eat other aquatic animals, including turtles, crayfish and crabs. Otters use their whiskers to find small animals in the dark water.