North American River Otter

The North American river otter is well-known for its playful attitudes and swimming abilities. The torpedo-shaped body, paddle-like tail, webbed feet and water repellent fur are all great adaptations that help the otter move through the water with ease. This otter even has the ability to stay underwater 6- 8 minutes. The river otter usually has a home burrow close to the water where it can sleep and raise its young.

North American River Otter

Lontra canadensis

Distribution: Wetlands (freshwater and brackish), rivers, lakes and coasts of Canada and the United States.

Diet in the Wild: Mostly mid-sized fish, though crustaceans, amphibians, mollusks, fruits, small mammals, reptiles and birds will be eaten if the opportunity presents itself

Diet at Caldwell Zoo: Feline diet, canine diet, dog chow, cat chow, carrots, eggs, fish and vitamins

IUCN Red List Status: Least concern, population stable

Threats: Air and water pollutants (including agricultural runoff), oil spills, habitat alteration and loss due to filling of wetlands and land use by industry (such as for coal mining, gas mining, oil drilling, tanning and logging)

Interesting Facts:

Otters have a clear third eyelid called a nictitating membrane. The nictitating membrane covers the otter’s eyes when underwater, allowing it to see while swimming.

River otters are highly social animals that will often play in large groups, though they live and hunt alone or in pairs.

Otters are comfortable both in water and on land, and will forage for food in either environment.

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