River Otter

north american river face

North American River Otter - Source: M Noonan

The river otter is a member of the weasel family. Sometimes confused with a beaver by those that are not in the know. The antics of these fellows can keep a viewer entertained for hours. There are different species throughout the Americas and there is a European river otter, whose range stretches well beyond Europe. The North American river otter is the most numerous of all the species. Otters in general inhabit diverse water bodies and river otters, although they may prefer fast-flowing rivers, also inhabit a variety of other freshwater habitats like streams, lakes, ponds, and marshes.

The river otter has a long slender body, which is ideal for swimming and sliding. They do not spend all their time in the water – but they do stay in the water for the majority of their day. They can swim at a speed of seven miles per hour and can stay under water in excess of two minutes at a time.

A Friendly, Neighborly Critter

They live in dens that sometimes are borrowed from other occupants that have waterfront property; a fine example is the beaver. Beavers are very important friends because they create ideal habitats for the otters to live in. Often a colony of beavers and a colony will share the same space. The European species is more of a solitary animal keeps to itself, they are also nocturnal. They may have a very large range, often occupying fifty miles or so of a river as its territory.

River Diet

They are not picky eaters although they do like fish. They also eat crayfish, small rodents and other small mammals. They also will dine on insects if need be, but that is not their preferred meal. They eat a good deal in order to keep up their active lifestyle and to stay warm in colder environments.

Otters are vocal but also communicate with each other through their noses. They touch noses when greeting each other and use their sense of smell to locate territories of other otters. They make chirping noises when they are content and use whistles and screams to display aggression or to warn of a predator.

Family Fun and Playful Times

River otters are devoted parents. The kits are born helpless and the mother will take care of the kit until it is able to care for itself. They teach the young how to swim and hunt and will even catch food and then release it again so that the kit can get a feel for the hunt. The young stay near mom for a full year, and then they are off on their own, to find their own den.

The river otters, like other otters, play more than typical animals do in the wild and their days are filled with antics - teasing each other, wrestling and chasing each other around. They love a good challenge and will find all different things to climb and jump off of. In Native American folklore, the otter is often portrayed as carefree, comical or lazy. They generally seem to enjoy every minute of their up-to 25 year life span.




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