North American River Otters

Blink and you’ll miss them – otters are extremely fast swimmers. We are home to a bevy of otters, including adults and their pups, as well as an orphan rescue.

Sleek swimmers playfully propel themselves through waves of water

The first thing you’ll notice about otters is how fun they are to watch. Zooming through the water with powerful tails and webbed feet, they can reach speeds of 13 kilometres an hour and hold their breath for up to eight minutes. As acrobatic as they are in the water, river otters are also comfortable on land, making their homes in burrows on the water’s edge. 


  • IUCN Red List Status: Least Concern (at relatively low risk of extinction)
  • Type: Mammal
  • Habitat: Streams, rivers, lakes, ponds, and marshes across North America
  • Diet: Carnivore – fish, frogs, and bird eggs
  • Size: 21.75 to 31.5 inches tall, plus an 11.75- to 19.75- inch long tail
  • Weight: 11 to 30 pounds
River Otter North American River Otters North American River Otters
vet team with otter

Care & Conservation

How we care for them

At the Wilder Institute/Calgary Zoo, we are bringing together our passion for plants and animals with our dedication to taking and inspiring action to sustain wildlife and wild places.
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facts about our animals

Fun Facts about North American River Otters

Their nostrils and ears can close to keep water out.

When otters are two months old, their mother pushes them into the water so they can learn to swim.

In winter, these otters use ice holes to surface and breathe

River otters hunt at night.

Otters have water repellant fur.

They can dive up to 60 feet.


How you can help

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Plan Your Visit

Get close to wildlife

It’s time to make some memories. Here’s everything you need to know to plan an unforgettable day at the zoo.