North American River Otter - Blank Park Zoo

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Scientific Name:
Lutra canadensisotter
Class:
Mammalia 
Order:
Carnivora
Family:
Mustelidae
Feeding Type:
Carnivorous
Range:
North America
Habitat:
Shores of deep, clear lakes, rivers, marshesotter 2
Diet in the Wild:
Fish, water voles, muskrats, coots, ducks, eggs
Diet at the Zoo:
Mixture of ground meat and fish
Description:
These otters have long, slender, and sleek bodies and weigh approximately 25 pounds and about 50 inches long. Head is small and round, with small eyes and ears and prominent whiskers. Their legs are short, but powerful and all four feet webbed. The tail is long and slightly tapered toward the tip with musk-producing glands underneath. The short dense fur is dark brown. Chin and stomach are reddish yellow, tinged with gray. Females are a third smaller than males.
Adaptation/Behavior:
River otters are highly intelligent and very curious. They enjoy exploring and spend the bulk of their time playing. They hunt mostly in the day, but in places where there are human disturbances, they will hunt at night. They have small ears and nostrils that can be tightly closed when in water. During a dive, pulse slows to a tenth of the normal rate of 170 beats a minute, thereby conserving oxygen. They are excellent swimmers with a powerful rudder like tail and webbed feet. They have no blubber and relies on their thick fur to keep warm. Scent glands are used for identification, defense, marking territory, and trail marking.
Courtship/Breeding:
River otters are solitary and pair up to mate. Copulation occurs in the water, and the gestation period is about 350 days. Breeding season lasts about 3 months in late winter and early spring. The otter kits start their life in a burrow in a riverbank, usually an abandoned muskrat den. Born blind and helpless, they are nursed by the female for a month..
Conservation:
River otters are at a low risk but in California, they are fully protected under law and may not be taken at any time. Population densities are low, even in the best habitat. Over 30,000 pelts are sold annually in the United States and Canada.   

Interesting Facts

Our Animals

  • Otter droppings are called spraints.
  • Being in the family of the mustelidae, otters are related to the skunk, badger and weasel.
  • Our otters get fishcicles – fish frozen in an ice cube.
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