Mainly fish. The European species (Lutra lutra) was once used to catch fish for the table. Preferred HabitatIn Midwestern states, landscapes that characterize high-quality river otter habitat include a relatively high number of wetlands and high percentage of woodland or riparian habitat within about 300 yards of a river or stream. For this reason, the river otter must consume food often. Maxell, D.P. It weighs around 5 – 14 kg (11 – 31 lb). The river otter is the largest member of the weasel family (Mustelidae). Missoula, MT. The North American river otter (Lontra canadensis), also known as the northern river otter or common otter, is a semiaquatic mammal endemic to the North American continent found in and along its waterways and coasts. She spent nine years working in laboratory and clinical research. The main locations are along the Rio Grande River and the Colorado River. They enjoy carp, sunfish, minnows, suckers, sculpin and salmonids such as: River otters also prefer slower-moving fish to game fish. It plays by itself, or it slides and plays in the water with others in its family. Its thick, powerful tail makes up nearly 20 inches of that length. Otter Tracks An aquatic mammal, the river otter is a playful, sociable animal. Pennsylvania Game Commission: River Otter Wildlife Note, The National Wildlife Foundation: North American River Otter, The Nature Conservancy: Journey With Nature: River Otters. Its short, muscular legs move surprisingly well on land, and is usually seen traveling in pairs (Foresman 2012). Bats of the Rocky Mountain West; natural history, ecology, and conservation. The ultimate river otter predators are humans. Large and highly active members of the weasel family, river otters have big appetites. The long guard hairs remain pliable in very cold weather (Ulrich 1986), and the dense underfur traps air to insulate it in water. Tobalske, B.A. They can also weigh anywhere from 11 to 30 pounds. River otters grow 26 to 40 inches in length, not including the tail, and weigh up to 18 pounds; males are approximately 17 percent large… River otters belong to the weasel family. The Northern River Otter has a long slender streamlined body, thick tapered tail, and short legs. Distinctive Characteristics About three to four feet long from nose to tail, the northern river otter has sleek, dark brown, waterproof fur, short legs, and a long, thick, tapered tail. Marsh near Punished Woman's Lake. Montana atlas of terrestrial vertebrates. Their body shape aids in helping them make sudden turns to catch fish and other prey. Enlarge Image . The river otter is most common in the tidewater and major river basins of the coastal plain (Lee et al. Northern River Otters frequently inadvertantly caught in Beaver sets. Mammals of Montana. Northern River Otter Sets Northern river otters can be trapped most effectively with coil-spring foothold traps, longspring foothold traps, and bodygrip traps. Williams, P.C. USDA Forest Service, Northern Region. Without river otters, entire watershed food webs would suffer. Boulder, CO: University Press of Colorado. J. Dianne Dotson is a science writer with a degree in zoology/ecology and evolutionary biology. Females typically are smaller. Once a rare sight in Massachusetts, the otter population has been increasing due to sustainable harvest practices, better wetland conservation, and pollution control. They are found throughout most of North America – from the Rio Grande in Northern Mexico to Canada and Alaska. 289 p. Dobkin, D. S.  1992. Currently, many populations along the coastal United States and Canada are stable or increasing, but this species is rare or extirpated throughout much of the Midwestern United States. Hendricks, C.R. River otters are strong, unmatched swimmers in their environments, and on land they can run at speeds up to 15 miles per hour. Small eyes and ears, a broad, flattened head, long cylindrical form, and four webbed feet suit it for its semiaquatic life. A lifelong writer, Dianne is also a content manager and science fiction & fantasy novelist. River otters can be found throughout much of the United States, Canada and Mexico around the Rio Grande and Colorado River deltas. This animal’s lovely waterproof pelt, which allows it to regulate its temperature, in the 1700s-1800s, a regular part of French fur trade, has meant this animal has been hunted for hundreds of years. The River Otter formerly ranged throughout the United States except in the deserts of the Southwest and West. I, too, assumed that sea + otter = sea otter. IUCN Otter Specialist Group Bulletin: Prey Preference of the North American River Otter (Lontra Canadensis) Evaluated Based on Optimal Foraging Theory. Channel Set for Otters North American River Otter The playful North American river otter is equally at home in the water and on land. The face is short with small ears. Peterson, and R.L. Once abundant throughout the watersheds of the United States and Canada, river otter numbers suffered greatly due to hunting by humans. Sighting one can be an exciting occasion for boaters, fishermen and other outdoor enthusiasts because of the creature’s secretive nature and relative rarity in some waters. Their dense, short under-fur is overlain by darker, coarse guard hairs that help repel wa… Otters are considered lucky animals in many Native American cultures and the otter is a symbol of loyalty and honesty in some West Coast tribes, but in northern British Columbia and the Alaskan coast, river otters (usually called "land-otters") were associated with ghosts and drowning and were regarded by the people with awe and dread. River otters consume both aquatic animal and plant life, with some exceptions. Northern River Otter. One of nature’s most social and playful creatures, the northern river otter is often seen in pairs or groups frolicking in waterways, sliding on the mudflats or rolling on logs. Habitats that retain open water in winter are i… The few natural river otter predators include bears, coyotes, bobcats, cougars and dogs. 1302 p. Hutto, R.L. Amphibians and reptiles of Montana. Probably breed every 2 to 3 years. Thought to be nearly extirpated from the mountains and upper piedmont by the 1930s, reintroduction projects in the mountains have reestablished a small population there. North American river otters, also called Canadian otters, have long, muscular, streamlined bodies with short legs and fully webbed feet bearing non-retractable claws. Young river otters prove to be the most susceptible to predators. Publication No. Order of importance varies: sunfish, suckers, sculpin, trout, invertebrates, and frogs. They use their long, agile bodies to swim and hunt for many prey species such as fish, amphibians, crustaceans and other organisms. Northern river otters have thick lustrous fur. The animal slides down mud and snow seemingly for the sheer delight of it. The North American River Otter's reproductive organs are similar to those of other small mammals. High flow volume water, densely vegetated and undercut banks preferable, non-turbid water and presence of sloughs and side channels to serve as brood rearing habitat are also important in winter. Thornton, K.P. River otters may live along rivers, lakes, ponds, sloughs, bays, estuaries or even along a seacoast. An adult North American river otter can weigh between 5.0 and 14 kg (11.0 and 30.9 lb). Their thick fur made them highly prized for their pelts. Generally solitary, river otters do engage in play when they meet. The female births a litter of two to four pups in the spring. A sea otter! After an absence of more than a century, its … River otters possess long, muscular bodies suited to their life on both land and in water. The male reproductive system contains a penis, testes, scrotum and more while the female reproductive system contains a vagina, ovaries, etc. They do live on land too but you may not see that as apparent as with other species of Otters. Foresman, K.R. The northern river otter (Lontra canadensis, formerly Lutra canadensis) is a semi-aquatic carnivorous mammal in the Mustelidae or “weasel family” which includes weasels, minks, ferrets, wolverines and badgers. Adams, R.A.  2003. 1999. It has 36 teeth. On average, otters range from 36 to 50 inches long from their head to the tip of the tail. A female river otter exhibits delayed implantation of her fertilized egg, so that it will not implant on her uterus for several months. Otters have sharp claws on their feet to catch prey. The playful North American river otter is well adapted for semi-aquatic living. They are highly adaptable animals so as long as they have access to enough food and water they can thrive. Typically such dens are makeshift, from log piles or similar natural sources, but often they will use former beaver or nutria dens as well. Bodygrip traps should be used only in submersion sets. A North American river otter had traveled to and set up camp in San Francisco for the first time in over 50 years. River otters are apex predators in their food web. Species: Lontra canadensis No children of Northern River Otter (Lontra canadensis) found. Few river otter predators exist in nature. Copyright 2021 Leaf Group Ltd. / Leaf Group Media, All Rights Reserved. This tail serves to propel the otters through water. Redmond. Their small heads widen to long necks and shoulders, and they have flattened, well-muscled tails. 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