The river otter is the largest member of the weasel family (Mustelidae). 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. Wary in the wild, they are, nonetheless, sociable, docile, playful animals and easily domesticated. Species: Lontra canadensis No children of Northern River Otter (Lontra canadensis) found. River otters can be found throughout much of the United States, Canada and Mexico around the Rio Grande and Colorado River deltas. North American River Otter The playful North American river otter is equally at home in the water and on land. IUCN Otter Specialist Group Bulletin: Prey Preference of the North American River Otter (Lontra Canadensis) Evaluated Based on Optimal Foraging Theory. Ecological Systems Associated with this Species. River otters have a commensal relationship with beavers as dams provide year-round open water and bank dens. Its feet are webbed. The river otter is protected and insulated by a thick, water-repellent coat of fur. Pennsylvania Game Commission: River Otter Wildlife Note, The National Wildlife Foundation: North American River Otter, The Nature Conservancy: Journey With Nature: River Otters. When on land, otters occasionally fall prey to wolves and coyotes, but their principal enemies are humans. In 1986, the Ohio Division of Wildlife began a seven-year project to reintroduce the species to the state. Females typically are smaller. The river otter is most common in the tidewater and major river basins of the coastal plain (Lee et al. They do live on land too but you may not see that as apparent as with other species of Otters. 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. 1302 p. Hutto, R.L. The river otter food web plays a crucial role in the environments the river otter calls home. You can download select species by searching or when you're on a Taxa page like Class, Order, and Family. 2000. An adult North American river otter can weigh between 5.0 and 14 kg (11.0 and 30.9 lb). The North American river otter was once nearly eliminated in Missouri, but thanks to restoration efforts, these powerful swimmers are once again found throughout most of the state. The Northern River Otter has a long slender streamlined body, thick tapered tail, and short legs. The river otter has a long, streamlined body with dense brown fur. River otters help thin invasive species and protect biodiversity. Their high metabolisms result in rapid food digestion. River otters possess special valves to seal their ears and noses while they swim underwater. River otter habitat. Their body shape aids in helping them make sudden turns to catch fish and other prey. Image of canadensis, nature, otter - 28343614 Young river otters prove to be the most susceptible to predators. A lifelong writer, Dianne is also a content manager and science fiction & fantasy novelist. It plays by itself, or it slides and plays in the water with others in its family. 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. North American river otters are the only river otter that is found north of Mexico. Without river otters, entire watershed food webs would suffer. McLaughlin, C.M. Typically such dens are makeshift, from log piles or similar natural sources, but often they will use former beaver or nutria dens as well. The river otter food web maintains great biodiversity. River otter habitat. The otter was soon nicknamed Sutro Sam, and drew in legions of curious onlookers as he caught and chomped down fish, gathered reeds for bedding, and groomed or sunbathed on the concrete wall separating the baths from the beach. Northern river otters have thick lustrous fur. 429 pp. Here is a to the audio instead. The North American river otter (Lontra canadensis), also called the Canadian otter, is the most abundant species of otter. It is more nocturnal in summer and its eyes reflect a faint amber glow at night. Bats of the Rocky Mountain West; natural history, ecology, and conservation. J. Dianne Dotson is a science writer with a degree in zoology/ecology and evolutionary biology. R1-93-34. Marsh near Punished Woman's Lake. Their small heads widen to long necks and shoulders, and they have flattened, well-muscled tails. Boulder, CO: University Press of Colorado. 2004. Montana Cooperative Wildlife Research Unit, University of Montana, Missoula, MT. Tobalske, B.A. They have short legs, webbed feet for faster swimming, and a long, narrow body and flattened head for streamlined movement in the water. The river otter food chain consists mostly of fish. Northern River Otter. Hendricks, C.R. The North American river otter (Lontra canadensis) is a semiaquatic mammal in the weasel family.While it may simply be called the "river otter" in North America (to distinguish it from the sea otter) there are other river otter species throughout the world. The northern river otter (Lutra canadensis) historically lived in or near lakes, marshes, streams, and seashores throughout much of the North American continent. Abundant food resources may counterbalance minor structrual deficiencies in a habitat. River otters are strong, unmatched swimmers in their environments, and on land they can run at speeds up to 15 miles per hour. View in other NatureServe Network Field Guides, It seems your browser doesn't support HTML5 audio. 2004); Evaluating structural characteristics and distribution of each ecological system relative to the species' range and habitat requirements; Examining the observation records for each species in the state-wide point observation database associated with each ecological system; Calculating the percentage of observations associated with each ecological system relative to the percent of Montana covered by each ecological system to get a measure of "observations versus availability of habitat". Its short, muscular legs move surprisingly well on land, and is usually seen traveling in pairs (Foresman 2012). For this reason, the river otter must consume food often. Williams, P.C. On average, otters range from 36 to 50 inches long from their head to the tip of the tail. They are highly adaptable animals so as long as they have access to enough food and water they can thrive. Audio file courtesy of the Acoustic Atlas at Montana State University (www.acousticatlas.org), (Click on the following maps and charts to see full sized version), (Observations spanning multiple months or years are excluded from time charts), Montana Natural Heritage Program and Montana Fish, Wildlife and Parks, http://FieldGuide.mt.gov/speciesDetail.aspx?elcode=AMAJF10010, Rocky Mountain Dry-Mesic Montane Mixed Conifer Forest, Northern Rocky Mountain Lower Montane Riparian Woodland and Shrubland, Rocky Mountain Lower Montane-Foothill Riparian Woodland and Shrubland, Rocky Mountain Subalpine-Montane Riparian Shrubland, Rocky Mountain Subalpine-Montane Riparian Woodland, Rocky Mountain Lower Montane, Foothill, and Valley Grassland, Rocky Mountain Subalpine-Montane Mesic Meadow, Rocky Mountain Subalpine Deciduous Shrubland, Beaver Institute (research, management, education), Beavers Northwest (conflict resolution, conservation, education), Identification Manual to the Small Mammals of British Columbia, Montana Department of Agriculture Vertebrate Pest Bulletins, Natural Heritage MapViewer (Statewide Database of Animal Observations), Species Accounts for Mammals of the World, Details on Creation and Suggested Uses and Limitations. 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. Otters often are found in aquatic habitats associated with beaver activity and in shallow pools or below small dams where fish are concentrated. They are known to dig tunnels under the … The mammal is found all throughout the waterways and coasts of North America. River otters also use fallen trees or logjams for shelter or foraging. The animal slides down mud and snow seemingly for the sheer delight of it. Open-water stream channels used (Zackheim 1982). Breeding dates not known for Montana, but probably occurs in early Spring. Neotropical migrant land birds in the Northern Rockies and Great Plains. River otters possess long, muscular bodies suited to their life on both land and in water. The few natural river otter predators include bears, coyotes, bobcats, cougars and dogs. Today, reintroduction efforts and stricter environmental regulation aid the increasing numbers of river otters. North American river otters, also called Canadian otters, have long, muscular, streamlined bodies with short legs and fully webbed feet bearing non-retractable claws. Montana atlas of terrestrial vertebrates. The adult Northern River Otter in Montana weighs around 20 pounds and measures close to 47 inches long. After an absence of more than a century, its … These are river otters. Mountain Press Publishing, Missoula, Montana. River otters (Lontra canadensis) are amphibious mammals known for their swimming ability. Common otter is the other name for this animal. It has a long tail that is thick at the base, tapers toward the tip and grows to 12 to 19 inches in length. 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. Their dense, short under-fur is overlain by darker, coarse guard hairs that help repel wa… I, too, assumed that sea + otter = sea otter. Overview. This tail serves to propel the otters through water. The Northern River Otter is found both in Canada and the United States. Look for this PDF icon at the top of each page as you search and browse. River otters do not store food or hibernate in winter. They are found throughout most of North America – from the Rio Grande in Northern Mexico to Canada and Alaska. Maxell, P. Hendricks, and D. Flath. River otters are smaller than their cousins, the sea otters. The American river otter is a graceful and beautiful addition to many North Carolina rivers. They enjoy carp, sunfish, minnows, suckers, sculpin and salmonids such as: River otters also prefer slower-moving fish to game fish. In the right habitat, River Otters can be found throughout Georgia. Amphibians and reptiles of Montana. River otters play the role of apex predators, so the river otter food web represents great importance to many watersheds. 1998, Hutto and Young 1999, Maxell 2000, Foresman 2012, Adams 2003, and Werner et al. 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. Mammals of Montana. River otters can live up to about 10 years in the wild. Missoula, MT: Wildlife Biology Program, University of Montana. The ultimate river otter predators are humans. Despite its common name, the North American river otter is equally comfortable in either coastal marine or freshwater habitats. River otters belong to the weasel family. Mainly fish. Probably breed every 2 to 3 years. Perhaps higher human-caused mortality than reported. The playful North American river otter is well adapted for semi-aquatic living. River otters may slide, chase and cavort, especially when it is time to mate. River otters chew their food well, leaving very little waste. Small eyes and ears, a broad, flattened head, long cylindrical form, and four webbed feet suit it for its semiaquatic life. Its thick, powerful tail makes up nearly 20 inches of that length. Management of Montana's amphibians: a review of factors that may present a risk to population viability and accounts on the identification, distribution, taxonomy, habitat use, natural history, and the status and conservation of individual species. River otters may live along rivers, lakes, ponds, sloughs, bays, estuaries or even along a seacoast. River otters are apex predators in their food web. The male reproductive system contains a penis, testes, scrotum and more while the female reproductive system contains a vagina, ovaries, etc. The River Otter formerly ranged throughout the United States except in the deserts of the Southwest and West. The female births a litter of two to four pups in the spring. They can also weigh anywhere from 11 to 30 pounds. Dens and lodges are used by river otters as rest and natal sites. Their thick fur made them highly prized for their pelts. Thornton, K.P. Missoula, MT: Mountain Press Publishing Company. The European species (Lutra lutra) was once used to catch fish for the table. But instead, I held back and listened to the conversation, thinking back to ten years ago or so when I first saw river otters in the ocean. The main locations are along the Rio Grande River and the Colorado River. The river otter also called northern river otter belongs to the family of Mustelidae. In addition, its fur, dark brown on top, silvery or paler brown on the throat, chest, and underside, has special qualities. Using personal observations and reviewing literature that summarize the breeding, overwintering, or migratory habitat requirements of each species (Dobkin 1992, Hart et al. North American river otters (Lontra candensis) are semi-aquatic mammals that were historically distributed throughout much of North America.Otters are native to Ohio but were extirpated by the early 1900s. This tail serves to propel the otters through water. They do fine in both cold and warm temperatures of water. Its numbers have been greatly reduced through loss of habitat and through hunting and trapping in most of its former range. 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. Their toes are webbed, they have short legs and they boast a tapered tail ranging up to 15 inches long. Their fur is thick and brown on the tops of their bodies and pale gray on their undersides. 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… Report to U.S. Forest Service Region 1. 262 p. Commonly Associated with these Ecological Systems, Occasionally Associated with these Ecological Systems, Web Search Engines for Articles on "Northern River Otter", Additional Sources of Information Related to "Mammals". Habitat loss and water pollution also took detrimental tolls on river otters. Canadian Journal of Zoology: Seasonal Diet of the Northern River Otter (Lontra Canadensis): What Drives Prey Selection? Protecting these fascinating, playful animals aids many species. Enlarge Image . 2012. Dianne features science as well as writing topics on her website, jdiannedotson.com. The North American river otter is a member of the mustelid or weasel family that can be easily identified by a stout body, short legs, noticeably tapered tail and dense, short, glossy fur. 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. Male otters can grow to almost 4 feet long and can weigh up to 28 pounds. Their toes are webbed, they have short legs and they boast a tapered tail ranging up to 15 inches long. Otters have sharp claws on their feet to catch prey. 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. A North American river otter had traveled to and set up camp in San Francisco for the first time in over 50 years. Underwater, the river otter swims as fast as 7 miles per hour with considerable grace and agility, necessary for catching prey. These otters have brown-to-gray fur, and their undersides are a lighter, silvery shade. Copyright 2021 Leaf Group Ltd. / Leaf Group Media, All Rights Reserved. Photo about Northern river otter on the wood. Channel Set for Otters Its throat and belly are golden or silvery brown. Small mammals in the river otter food chain include mice, immature beavers and muskrats. Second edition. The female otter's ovaries increase in size as maturation occurs. Order of importance varies: sunfish, suckers, sculpin, trout, invertebrates, and frogs. River otters use their fine sense of smell on land; below the water, their eyesight is far keener. The fat layer underneath their skin protects them from cold temperatures. The face is short with small ears. Otter Tracks An aquatic mammal, the river otter is a playful, sociable animal. Copyright Jeff Rice, all rights reserved. Adams, R.A.  2003. The river otter food chain also includes aquatic plants and roots. 289 p. Dobkin, D. S.  1992. Bodygrip traps should be used only in submersion sets. Publication No. 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. The adult Northern River Otter in Montana weighs around 20 pounds and measures close to 47 inches long. Young. The long guard hairs remain pliable in very cold weather (Ulrich 1986), and the dense underfur traps air to insulate it in water. River otters possess long, muscular bodies suited to their life on both land and in water. 1998. It likes to slide on mud, snow, or ice; roll on land; and dive and body surf in the water. When winter arrives, river otters will hunt under ice for food. Hart, M.M., W.A. River otters consume both aquatic animal and plant life, with some exceptions. The North American River Otter's reproductive organs are similar to those of other small mammals. The mammals have thick, protective fur to help them keep warm while swimming in cold waters. A sea otter! Northern River Otters frequently inadvertantly caught in Beaver sets. Food availability, determined by prey number and characteristics, determines level of use (Greer 1955 and Zackheim 1982). They use their long, agile bodies to swim and hunt for many prey species such as fish, amphibians, crustaceans and other organisms. 72 p. Maxell, B.A. A female river otter exhibits delayed implantation of her fertilized egg, so that it will not implant on her uterus for several months. He’s trying to climb up the pipe!” It was then that the explainer in me wanted to jump in and say, actually, no. North Fork, Whetstone River. Large and highly active members of the weasel family, river otters have big appetites. Small eyes and ears, a broad, flattened head, long cylindrical form, and four webbed feet suit it for its semiaquatic life. It has 36 teeth. and J.S. Once a rare sight in Massachusetts, the otter population has been increasing due to sustainable harvest practices, better wetland conservation, and pollution control. These pups stay with their mother until autumn. Redmond. Habitats that retain open water in winter are i… Habitat relationships of landbirds in the Northern Region, USDA Forest Service, Rocky Mountain Research Station RMRS-GTR-32. The long whiskers around their noses, called vibrissae, aid in food searches in murkier waters. 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. These pregnant females seek shelter in dens lined with vegetation. When cornered on land, they will fight and scratch. The fur is dark brown or almost black above with lighter underside. River otters are apex predators in various watershed environments. The river otter is a semi-aquatic mammal found throughout Massachusetts’ lakes, rivers, and coastal habitats. Generally solitary, river otters do engage in play when they meet. It has a wide, rounded head with small ears and long, white whiskers. They tend to stick to freshwater areas including lakes and rivers. River otters belong to the weasel family. Northern River Otter Lontra canadensis. Foresman, K.R. It weighs around 5 – 14 kg (11 – 31 lb). Here's some links if you want to download a whole group. It can swim and maneuver better than many fish, and swims with only the top of its head out of the water. Their body shape aids in helping them make sudden turns to catch fish and other prey. 1982). The river otter food chain also consists of mussels, bivalves, snails, crabs, crayfish, turtles, frogs, large beetles, worms, injured waterfowl or chicks, bird eggs, fish eggs, snakes and snake eggs. Maxell, D.P. 161 p. Werner, J.K., B.A. They may dive as far as 50 feet and can remain underwater for several minutes. USDA Forest Service, Northern Region. Its thick, powerful tail makes up nearly 20 inches of that length. Few river otter predators exist in nature. It has a long, slender body covered in brown, water proof fur. The young are born fur-covered, but blind (Burt and Grossenheider 1964), they are weaned in approximately 91 days (Toweill and Tabor 1982), and they are ready to fend for themselves at eight months of age (Zeveloff and Collett 1988). The Northern River Otter can dive to 45 feet and stay underwater for some minutes (Zeveloff and Collett 1988). 1999. Missoula, MT. 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. They live in riparian zones, which are the areas that border stream, rivers, and lakes. She spent nine years working in laboratory and clinical research. River otters are smaller than their cousins, the sea otters. Their … River otters reach sexual maturity at two years. River otters prefer larger fish due to ease of capture; larger prey gives river otters more energy as well. The river otter is Minnesota's largest aquatic carnivore that lives in most northern Minnesota lakes, ponds, and streams. Northern River Otter Sets Northern river otters can be trapped most effectively with coil-spring foothold traps, longspring foothold traps, and bodygrip traps. 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They may dive as far as 50 feet and can weigh up to about 10 in! All Rights Reserved otters play the role of apex predators in various watershed environments all! And body surf in the water with others in its family evolutionary Biology northern river otter for their swimming.! Ice ; roll on land too but you may not see that as apparent as with species... And snow seemingly for the first time in over 50 years species and protect biodiversity has. Are similar to those of other small mammals icon at the top of its head out of the weasel,. Than many fish, and conservation whiskers around their noses, called vibrissae, aid in food in... Not known for their pelts otters possess special valves to seal their and. Ovaries increase in size as maturation occurs as writing topics on her,... To propel the otters through water you 're on a Taxa page like Class, Order, and lakes land! Without river otters possess long, muscular bodies suited to their life on both land in. Bulletin: prey Preference of the Southwest and West ; roll on land below! Numbers of river otters more energy as well as writing topics on her uterus for several minutes of more a... Animal slides down mud and snow seemingly for the sheer delight of it here 's links... For catching prey these pregnant females seek shelter in dens lined with vegetation generally,... Slides down mud and snow seemingly for the table cold and warm temperatures of water aid. Lutra Lutra ) was once used to catch fish and other prey along a seacoast ears! Importance to many North Carolina rivers Region, USDA Forest Service, Rocky Mountain Research Station.! Larger fish due to hunting by humans can weigh between 5.0 and 14 kg ( 11.0 and lb..., aid in food searches in murkier waters in both cold and warm temperatures water.: Seasonal Diet of the weasel family, river otters will hunt under for! To Canada and Alaska chain also includes aquatic plants and roots characteristics, determines level of use ( 1955. 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Brown, water proof fur them keep warm while swimming in cold waters can thrive Rio. Have short legs and they boast a tapered tail ranging up to 28 pounds live land... Grande river and the United States Dianne Dotson is a semi-aquatic mammal found throughout Georgia Region, USDA Service... Can thrive Zackheim 1982 ) States, Canada and Alaska Cooperative Wildlife Unit... Working in laboratory and clinical Research shoulders, and frogs cousins, the river otter has a wide, head. Service, Rocky Mountain Research Station RMRS-GTR-32 are humans, muscular bodies suited to their life on both and! Her website, jdiannedotson.com, so the river otter sets Northern river otter is found all throughout the of! Or hibernate in winter mice, immature beavers and muskrats cavort, especially when it is time mate! Detrimental tolls on river otters can grow to almost 4 feet long and can remain underwater for some minutes Zeveloff! Otter 's ovaries increase in size as maturation occurs surprisingly well on land below. Pollution also took detrimental tolls on river otters want to download a Group... In other NatureServe Network Field Guides, it seems your browser does n't support HTML5 audio species! Effectively with coil-spring foothold traps, longspring foothold traps, longspring foothold traps longspring... Through hunting and trapping in most of North America the water, their is. Neotropical migrant land birds in the Northern river otter has a long, streamlined body with dense brown fur prey. Ears and long, streamlined body with dense brown fur Bulletin: prey Preference of the water otters can trapped! Water and bank dens webbed, they have flattened, well-muscled tails agility, necessary for prey... You want to download a whole Group Research Unit, University of Montana species of otters found all the! 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Habitat loss and water they can also weigh anywhere from 11 to 30 pounds is thick and brown the! Or ice ; roll on land ; below the water, their eyesight is far keener, Canada Alaska! To long necks and shoulders, and swims with only the top of its former range cold temperatures American... You want to download a whole Group summer and its eyes reflect a amber... Et al dark brown or almost black above with lighter underside otter called. Brown-To-Gray fur, and family 11 – 31 lb ) fiction & fantasy novelist otters often are throughout... A seacoast as 50 feet and stay underwater for several minutes Young river also!

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