However, river otters will prey on trout, pike, walleye (Sander vitreus vitreus), salmon (Oncorhynchus spp. The North American River Otter lives in rivers, lakes and wetlands all over New England. The North American river otters avoid water bodies with gradually sloping shorelines of sand or gravel. They have been virtually eliminated through many parts of their range, especially around heavily populated areas in the midwestern and eastern United States. 1. In many places, the populations have re-established themselves because of conservation initiatives. In addition, North American river otters can contract jaundice, hepatitis, feline panleucopenia, and pneumonia.  Instances of North American river otters eating small mammals, such as mice and squirrels, and occasionally birds have been reported as well. The pelage has a high luster and varies from light brown to black. Crustaceans may even be consumed more than fish.  Litter size can reach five, but usually ranges from one to three. , The diet of the North American river otter can be deduced by analyzing either stool obtained in the field, or gut contents removed from trapped otters.  They are now absent or rare in Arizona, Kansas, Nebraska, New Mexico, North Dakota, Ohio, Oklahoma, South Dakota, Tennessee, and West Virginia. These include mudminnows (Umbra limi) and sculpins (Cottus spp.).  North American river otters only settle in areas that consist of vegetation, rock piles, and sufficient coverage.  During winter, the North American river otters heavily use openings in the ice, and may excavate passages in beaver dams for accessing open water. North American river otters also inhabit the forested regions of the Pacific coast in North America. They measure 3 feet to 4 feet from head to tail and weigh 7 pounds to 31 pounds. ), chubs (Semotilus spp. An adult North American river otter can weigh between 5.0 and 14 kg (11.0 and 30.9 lb). Both males and family groups travel drastically less during winter. Moreover, a western Oregon study revealed fish remains were present in 80% of the 103 digestive tracts examined.  The New World river otters originated from the Old World river otters following a migration across the Bering Land Bridge, which existed off and on between 1.8 million and 10,000 years ago. North American River Otters are built for swimming. The recognizable long, slender body is built for sliding down muddy river banks and snowy hills. Males can start breeding at the same time but have more success when they are older. All of the otter species should have a habitat that allows them to move from land to the water. Sunning themselves by the water’s edge.  Trappers in Alberta, Canada commonly assert North American river otters are major predators of North American beavers. The playful North American river otter is equally at home in the water and on land.  In the wild, they normally live about 8 to 9 years, but are capable of living up to 13 years of age. Copulation lasts from 16 to 73 minutes and may occur in water or on land. North American river otter pelts are used as the standard for rating the quality of other pelts. General description: The otter is perfectly suited for an aquatic life. After the parents breed and an egg is fertilized, the embryo becomes inactive in a stage called delayed implantation. A mature male otter weighs 10 to 25 pounds and is 30 to 40 inches in length, plus a 12- to 15-inch tail. 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.  The North American river otter existed on all parts of the Pacific Coast, including the seashore and inland streams and lakes. , Aquatic life ties North American river otters almost exclusively to permanent watersheds. , North American river otters consume an extensive assortment of fish species ranging in size from 2 to 50 centimeters (0.79 to 19.69 in) that impart sufficient caloric intake for a minute amount of energy expenditure. According to IUCN (International Union for Conservation of Nature), report in 2008 there is no information to support population size of . The fur is a rich brown, moderately short, and very dense. A short, broad rostrum for exhaling and a long, broad cranium define the relatively flat skull. Additional premolars may be present. A shorter trachea may improve air exchange and increase lung ventilation in diving mammals.. , In a new classification, the species is called Lontra canadensis, where the genus Lontra includes all the New World river otters. , Communication among North American river otters is accomplished mainly by olfactory and auditory signals. Musk from the scent glands may also be secreted when otters are frightened or angry. The average river otter’s life span varies depending on whether the river otter lives in the wild or in captivity. Eyes are small and placed anteriorly. Average Lifespan Wild: 8-9 years Captivity: 15-20 years Fun Facts.  Did you know? The otter’s fur is thick but fine, lustrous deep brown to almost black in color, with the exception of the chin and throat which are lighter.  However, large populations never occurred in areas of Southern California such as the chaparral and oak woodlands and Mojave Desert seasonal waterway regions, or in the xeric shrubland regions in New Mexico, Texas, Nevada, and Colorado. , North American river otters can produce a snarling growl or hissing bark when bothered, and a shrill whistle when in pain. 671 Sample size Medium Data quality Acceptable Observations. Other great locations are where aquatic life is … Chasing is also a common game. in hatcheries or other fish culture facilities). The rhinarium is bare, with an obtuse, triangular projection. Appearance and lifespan. Range lifespan Status: captivity 21 (high) years; Typical lifespan Status: wild 8 to 9 years; Average lifespan Status: wild 8-9 years; How do they behave? , Although commonly called a "river otter", the North American river otter is found in a wide variety of aquatic habitats, both freshwater and coastal marine, including lakes, rivers, inland wetlands, coastal shorelines, marshes, and estuaries.  Other documented common names are American otter, Canada otter, Canadian otter, fish otter, land otter, nearctic river otter, and Prince of Wales otter. The North American river otters may compete with the American mink (Mustela vison) for resources. They become much more nocturnal in the spring, summer, and fall seasons, and more diurnal during winter. Reintroduction of river otters may present a problem in that it may contaminate the genetic structure of the native population. The river otter was first identified in 1777. Some studies indicate that river otters pair for only a few months during the breeding season and have no further strong bonds. North American river otters are not scavengers; they avoid consuming carrion.  Young are born between February and April, and parturition lasts three to eight hours. Annual harvest numbers of North American river otters are similar for Canada and the United States, with most pelts being used in the garment industry. , Habitat degradation and pollution are major threats to their conservation; North American river otters are highly sensitive to pollution and readily accumulate high levels of mercury, organochloride compounds, and other chemical elements. The North American river otters may leave the den by eight weeks and are capable of sustaining themselves upon the arrival of fall, but they usually stay with their families, which sometimes include the father, until the following spring. Starvation may occur due to excessive tooth damage.  Specific species of reptiles and amphibians prey include: boreal chorus frogs (Pseudacris maculata); Canadian toads (Bufo hemiophrys); wood frogs (Rana sylvatica); bullfrogs (Rana catesbeiana); green frogs (Rana clamitans); northwestern salamanders (Ambystoma gracile); Pacific giant salamander (Dicamptodon ensatus); rough-skinned newt (Taricha granulosa); and garter snakes (Thamnophis). Females give birth to litters of one to five pups 10 to 12 months after mating. , Oil spills present a localized threat to otter populations, especially in coastal areas. , Mammals are rarely consumed by North American river otters, and are not a major dietary component.  For instance, Catostomidae are the primary dietary component of North American river otters in Colorado's Upper Colorado River Basin.  This availability is influenced by the following factors: detectability and mobility of the prey, habitat availability for the various prey species, environmental factors, such as water depth and temperature, and seasonal changes in prey supply and distribution in correspondence with otter foraging habitat. OUR DATA: We use the most recent data from these primary sources: AnAge, UMICH, Max Planck, PanTHERIA, Arkive, UKC, AKC. Empower Her. The face is broad, and the eyes protrude slightly. Males are generally larger than females. Since 1976, over 4,000 otters have been reintroduced in 21 U.S. states. Its throat and belly are golden or silvery brown. , The North American river otter was first described by German naturalist Johann Christian Daniel von Schreber in 1777. In Florida, inhabitation of North American river otters is lowest in freshwater marshes, intermediate in salt marshes, and highest in swamp forests. North American river otters are very susceptible to the effects of environmental pollution, which is a likely factor in the continued decline of their numbers. © 2020 WILD SKY MEDIA. North America's largest North American river otter populations were found in areas with an abundance and diversity of aquatic habitats, such as coastal marshes, the Great Lakes region, and glaciated areas of New England. , The range of the North American river otter has been significantly reduced by habitat loss, beginning with the European colonization of North America.  North American river otters characteristically approach within a few feet of a boat or a person on shore because they're near-sighted, a consequence of vision adapted for underwater sight.  About one-third of the animal's total length consists of a long, tapered tail. The North American river otter has a delicate sense of touch in the paws in addition to great dexterity. When the mothers have established their domains, they give birth to several kits.  When left unchecked, though, otter depredations can be quite significant under certain circumstances (e.g. Its feet are webbed. Daily movements of family groups averaged 4.7, 4.4, and 2.4 km (2.9, 2.7, and 1.5 mi) in spring, summer, and winter, respectively. The North American River Otter is very streamlined, having a muscular body with short legs, webbed toes and a long muscular tail. North American river otters are inadvertently harvested by traps set for North American beavers, and therefore management plans should consider both species simultaneously. Water quality and development inhibit recovery of populations in some areas. The average river otter’s life span varies depending on whether the river otter lives in the wild or in captivity. In Maine, use of watersheds by North American river otters is negatively associated with the proportion of mixed hardwood-softwood stands in forested areas adjacent to waterways. On occasion, groups of unrelated juveniles are observed. The species is also present throughout Alaska, including the Aleutian Islands, and the north slope of the Brooks Range. What Are the Differences Between Male and Female Bottlenose Dolphins. Otters are commonly seen: Along the shorelines of inland lakes and Lake Superior exploring and hunting.  Most North American river otter mortality is caused by human-related factors, such as trapping, illegal shooting, roadkills, and accidental captures in fish nets or set lines.  Each otter pup weighs approximately five ounces. Otter Spotter The northern river otter is the most aquatic member of the weasel family. North American river otter inhabitation is affected by type, distribution, and density of aquatic habitats and characteristics of human activities. In captivity they live 10 - 15 years. Because the North American river otters delay implantation for at least eight months, the interval between copulation and parturition can reach 10–12 months. By the 1970s, otters were restricted mainly to Scotland, especially the islands and the north-west coast, western Wales, parts of East Anglia and the West Country (though they remained … Although the distribution became reduced in some regions of southern Canada, the only province-wide extirpation occurred on Prince Edward Island. Preceding the settlement of North America by Europeans, North American river otters were prevalent among aquatic habitats throughout most of the continent. The North American river otter scent-marks with feces, urine, and possibly anal sac secretions. As a result, slow-swimming fish are consumed more often than game fishes when both are equally available. The maximum weight and length of both sexes are attained at three to four years of age. 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 North American river otter is physically well-equipped for aquatic life. This dilemma prevents, and consequently inhibits, recolonization or growth of North American river otter populations. Despite its common name, the North American river otter is equally comfortable in either coastal marine or freshwater habitats. Ectoparasites include ticks, sucking lice(Latagophthirus rauschi), and fleas (Oropsylla arctomys). Environmental disasters, such as oil spills, may increase levels of blood haptoglobin and interleukin-6 immunoreactive protein, but decrease body mass. A clinal reduction in size may exist from north to south along the Pacific coast, but not from east to west. The average otter lifespan of the animal in captivity – 15 years, in wildlife there are rare specimens older than 10 years. The Basics.  Cases where they've been ambushed and consumed by grizzly bears (Ursus arctos horribilis) and polar bears (Ursus maritimus) have also been reportedly witnessed near the Arctic region. You can usually observe feeding times at the zoos too which is fun. The mean tracheal length of the North American river otter is 15.3 cm (6.0 in), or 23.2% of the body length. ), and squawfishes (Ptychocheilus spp. In addition the river otter has two types/sets of fur. The alarm call, given when shocked or distressed by potential danger, is an explosive snort, made by expelling air through the nostrils. It can tolerate a great range of temperature and elevations. River otter lifespan is 5-8 years in the wild. It has a wide, rounded head with small ears and long, white whiskers. Female estrus lasts about a month per year, and true gestation lasts 61–63 days. The North American river otter is found throughout North America, inhabiting inland waterways and coastal areas in Canada, the Pacific Northwest, the Atlantic states, and the Gulf of Mexico. In Idaho, North American river otters prefer valley habitats over mountainous terrain, and they select valley streams over valley lakes, reservoirs, and ponds. , Amphibians, where regionally accessible, have been found in the North American river otter's diet during the spring and summer months, as indicated in many of the food habit studies. Data has shown that the river otter would shed their under fur fully from May to August. The tail makes up about a third of their total length.  Susceptibility of these species is greatest during the summer (when waterfowl broods are vulnerable) and autumn. Several North American river otters may even cooperate while fishing. River Otters Have 11 Names. They may migrate as a result of food shortages or environmental conditions, but they do not migrate annually. It is a European branch of the weasel or Mustelidae family. , Although they consume birds, North American river otters do not feed on bird eggs.  The species epithet canadensis means "of Canada". , The North American river otter has few natural predators when in water. Consequently, many wildlife management agencies developed strategies to restore or enhance otter populations, including the use of reintroduction projects. Molecular biological techniques have been used to determine when the river otter and the giant otter (Pteronura brasiliensis) of South America diverged.  The most common amphibians recognized were frogs (Rana and Hyla). The river otter is the largest member of the weasel family. In Idaho and Massachusetts, ecological elements preferred for latrine sites include large conifers, points of land, beaver bank dens and lodges, isthmuses, mouths of permanent streams, or any object that protrudes from the water. Since their reintroduction to Kentucky in the early 90s, they have recovered to the point that a trapping season was started in 2006, and the species is now found in all major waterways. They're not slow creatures.  The few occurrences of mammals found in the North American river otter's diet include: muskrats (Ondatra zibethicus); meadow voles (Microtus pennsylvanicus); eastern cottontails (Sylvilagus floridanus); and snowshoe hares (Lepus americanus). There have also been some reports of river otters attacking and even drowning dogs.  The body of the river otter measures between 65 cm to 105 cm (25 to 41 inches) in length and the tail measures 32 to 45 cm (12 to 17 inches) in length. She sometimes allows the pups to ride her back to teach them the art of swimming.  Large male North American river otters can exceed a weight of 15 kilograms (33 lb).  Fossils of a giant river otter dating back 3.5 Mya have been found in the US Midwest; however, fossils of the modern river otter did not appear in North America until about 1.9 Mya. North American river otters live alone or in family groups of, usually, females and their young. A number of reintroduction projects have been initiated to help halt the reduction in the overall population. In Alaska, the two species living in marine environments indicate niche separation through resource partitioning, probably related to the swimming abilities of these mustelids. Otter is one of the mammal species of predators, which is included in the Mustelidae family. Discover How Long Sea otter Lives.  The mammal was identified as a species of otter and has a variety of common names, including North American river otter, northern river otter, common otter and, simply, river otter. Prior to the arrival of the next litter, the North American river otter yearlings venture out in search of their own home ranges.. , CS1 maint: multiple names: authors list (, "Expert says otter attacks are rare after St. Pete dog killed", "Dog attacked by otters in Lakewood, homeowners say", "7 Surprising Facts About the Giant River Otter", "Multigene phylogeny of the Mustelidae: Resolving relationships, tempo and biogeographic history of a mammalian adaptive radiation", 10.1644/1545-1410(2002)712<0001:LM>2.0.CO;2, "North American River Otter – National Wildlife Federation", "Basic Facts About North American River Otters", "Distribution and abundance of river otter in Voyageurs National Park, Minnesota", "Food habits of the river otter in Suisun Marsh, Central California", "Feeding relationships of river otters in northeastern Pennsylvania", Food habits of the North American river otter (, "Social Networks and the Formation and Maintenance of River Otter Groups", "Art Lander's Outdoors: Once endangered river otters now likely to be found in Kentucky for generations", Colorado Otters May No Longer Need Protection, "Final report of the North American river otter research project on the Upper Colorado River Basin in and adjacent to Rocky Mountain National Park, Colorado", COSEWIC assessment and status report on the Grizzly Bear, https://en.wikipedia.org/w/index.php?title=North_American_river_otter&oldid=989875112, Articles with unsourced statements from May 2009, Creative Commons Attribution-ShareAlike License, This page was last edited on 21 November 2020, at 14:52. , During the winter and spring, when the water levels were higher, North American river otters had a greater tendency to prey upon crayfish (73% of scats had crayfish remains) rather than fish. The giant otter is found in the lakes, slow-moving forested rivers, creeks, reservoirs, and swamps of South America. What do they look like? The Japanese river otter (Japanese: ニホンカワウソ(日本川獺 ー, Hepburn: Nihon-kawauso) (Lutra lutra whiteleyi) is an extinct variety of otter formerly widespread in Japan. and redhorses (Moxostoma spp. North American river otters are active year-round, and are most active at night and during crepuscular hours.  Other species of birds found within their diets include: northern pintail (Anas acuta); mallard (Anas platyrhynchos); canvasback (Aythya valisineria); ruddy duck (Oxyura jamaicensis); and the American coot (Fulica americana). However, it is sensitive to pollution, and will disappear from tainted areas. Reduced lobulation of the lungs is presumed to be adaptive for underwater swimming. An entrance, which may be under water or above ground, leads to a nest chamber lined with leaves, grass, moss, bark, and hair. They have few natural predators, especially while in the water, but coyotes and wolves will hunt otters on land.  Its vibrissae (whiskers) are long and thick, enhancing sensory perception underwater and on land. When females leave, they tend to move much further away (60–90 km or 37–56 mi) than males (up to 30 km or 19 mi), which tend to move shorter distances. The North American river otter (Lontra canadensis), also called the Canadian otter, is the most abundant species of otter.They are found throughout most of North America – from the Rio Grande in Northern Mexico to Canada and Alaska. The otters migrated to North America and southwards again across the Panamanian Land Bridge, which formed 3 Mya. The tail, which is stout and larger in surface area than the limbs, is used for stability while swimming and for short bursts of rapid propulsion. ), daces (Rhinichthys spp. The species is often used as a bioindicator because of its position at the top of the food chain in aquatic ecosystems.  An average adult male weighs about 11.3 kilograms (25 lb) against the female's average of 8.3 kilograms (18 lb). River Otter (Lutra canadensis Schreber) From: Saunders, D. A. Daily movements of yearling males and females in Idaho averaged 4.7 and 2.4 km (2.9 and 1.5 mi) in spring, 5.1 and 4.0 km (3.2 and 2.5 mi) in summer, and 5.0 and 3.3 km (3.1 and 2.1 mi) in autumn, respectively. Kits live with their mother until the next breeding season, which is between a year and a year and a half. The otter is a secretive semi-aquatic species which was once widespread in Britain. Acid drainage from coal mines is a persistent water quality issue in some areas, as it eliminates otter prey. These names are: river otter, North American river otter, northern river otter, common otter, American otter, Canada otter, Canadian otter, fish otter, land otter, nearctic river otter, and the Prince of Wales otter. The kits open their eyes after 30–38 days. , North American river otters are highly mobile and have the capacity of traveling up to 42 km (26 mi) in one day. Live fish are typically eaten from the head. ACTIVITY. Most mustelids, including otters, have specialized teeth, including sharp canines and carnassials that inflict lethal bites to prey. Reintroduction projects have been particularly valuable in restoring populations in many areas of the United States. After the shedding of the under fur, the otter shed their guard hair from August to November.  , Adult North American river otters are capable of consuming 1 to 1.5 kilograms (2.2 to 3.3 lb) of fish per day. Fur of senescent river otters may become white-tipped, and rare albinos may occur. The river otter is protected and insulated by a thick, water-repellent coat of fur. In all habitats, their basic social group is the family, consisting of an adult female and her progeny. North American river otters may be victims of canine distemper, rabies, respiratory tract disease, and urinary infection. From mid-winter through the breeding season, adult females move and den alone. Otters live up to 16 years. The newborns start playing at five to six weeks, and begin consuming solid food at 9–10 weeks. , Like other otters, the North American river otter lives in a holt, or den, constructed in the burrows of other animals, or in natural hollows, such as under a log or in river banks. Neotropical river otter Synonyms Lutra longicaudis Lifespan, ageing, and relevant traits Maximum longevity Not yet established Observations. Appearance. , Aquatic invertebrates have been recognized as an integral part of the North American river otter's diet. , North American river otters live an average of 21 years of age in captivity, but they can reach 25 years of age. River otters are not territorial, but individual North American river otters of different groups portray mutual avoidance. Dating back to the 1880s, it was even seen in Tokyo.The population suddenly shrank in the 1930s, and the mammal nearly vanished. 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… Also known as Lontra Canadensis, the North American river otter has a playful nature that captures the attention of those fortunate enough to watch. Female otters have been known to move in with a beaver to share a den.  Males are, on average, 5% larger than females. While swimming at the surface, the dorsal portion of the North American river otter's head, including nostrils, ears, and eyes, is exposed above water. North American river otters living in groups hunt and travel together, use the same dens, resting sites, and latrines, and perform allogrooming. North American river otters rely upon play to learn survival skills such as fighting and hunting. The river otter has a long, streamlined body with dense brown fur.  The North American river otter's nostrils and ears close during submersion, keeping water from entering them. Though they have few predators outside of humans, they can scoot away from danger on land at a speed of 18 miles per hour. They host numerous endoparasites, such as nematodes, cestodes, trematodes, the sporozoan Isopora, and acanthocephalans. It has a long tail that is thick at the base, tapers toward the tip and grows to 12 to 19 inches in length. , The North American river otter is sexually dimorphic. After implantation, the gestation period is 63 to 65 days. Newborn river otters are called kits, pups or whelps. River otters can hold their breath for up to 8 minutes while under water. State University of New York, College of Environmental Science and Forestry. Different studies have placed the breeding season in winter, late spring and summer. The female otters do not dig their own dens; instead, they rely on other animals, such as beavers, to provide suitable environments to raise their offspring. Eurasian otters (Lutra lutra) are semiaquatic, which means they split their time between land and water.  Lifespan: In the wild River Otters live less than 10 years. All Canadian provinces except Prince Edward Island and 29 U.S. states have viable populations that sustain annual harvests. The den typically has many tunnel openings, one of which generally allows the otter to enter and exit the body of water. This allowed them to adjust to the seasons changing. They are known as playful animals, often seen sliding in mud and snow and playing in the water. North American river otters also currently inhabit coastal regions throughout the United States and Canada. HABITAT. In Mexico, the North American river otters lived in the Rio Grande and Colorado River Deltas. ); Cyprinidae, made up of carp (Cyprinus spp. An otter is muscular, streamlined and solidly built. Shape The World. She doesn’t make her own den but takes over an existing one. In Idaho, North American river otters and beavers were recorded in the same beaver lodge simultaneously on three separate occasions. In freshwater systems, groups occur most often in autumn and during early winter.  It differs from the European otter by its longer neck, narrower visage, the smaller space between the ears and its shorter tail. A Eurasian otter can hold its breath for twice that long, quite easily! However, improvements in water quality (through enactment of clean water regulations) and furbearer management techniques have permitted river otters to regain portions of their range in many areas. Resolution of such conflicts will usually require removal and/or relocation of nuisance otters. The use of den and resting sites is chiefly opportunistic, although locations that provide protection and seclusion are preferred. , On land, the North American river otter can walk, run, bound, or slide. , The North American river otter is considered a species of least concern according to the IUCN Red List, as it is not currently declining at a rate sufficient for a threat category. They weigh about 5 ounces and don’t open their eyes until they are 4 weeks old.  At birth, the North American river otters are fully furred, blind, and toothless. Females generally begin reproducing at the age of two. While they enjoy playing with others, river otters are typically solitary mammals that trek up and down miles of river bank each year. , A broad muzzle is found on the North American river otter's flat head, and the ears are round and inconspicuous.  Females usually do not reproduce until two years of age, although yearlings produce offspring on occasion. Based in Las Vegas, Sandy Vigil has been a writer and educator since 1980. An adult Japanese otter was between 65 and 80 cm long, with a tail measuring 45 to 50 cm. When the pups are about two months old and their coats grow in, their mother introduces them to the water.  North American river otters generally feed on prey that is in larger supply and easier to catch. Information about river otter breeding and reproductive and social behavior is varied due to the difficulty of studying these animals in the wild. Even in larger bodies of water, they may take disproportional advantage of any seasonal concentrations of fish when and where only very limited areas of suitable spawning, low-flow, or over-wintering habitat may exist. The northern river otter, also known as the North American river otter or the common otter, is a mammal which inhabits much of the United States and Canada, but in Wisconsin, they are most prevalent in the northern half of the state. There are several locations where you can view Otters in captivity.  Tail lengths range from 30 to 50 centimetres (12 to 20 in). North American river otters also may use a birdlike chirp for communication over longer distances, but the most common sound heard among a group of otters is low-frequency chuckling. Also, North American river otters have large molars used for crushing hard objects, such as the shells of molluscs. These qualities give the North American river otter a streamlined profile in water, but reduce agility on land. Trapping, loss or degradation of aquatic habitats through filling of wetlands, and development of coal, oil, gas, tanning, timber, and other industries, resulted in extirpations, or declines, in North American river otter populations in many areas. River otters have dens on land in which to sleep and have their babies. Life history traits (averages) Female sexual maturity Male sexual maturity Gestation 57 days Weaning Foot falls during walking and running follow the sequence of left limb, right limb, right limb, left limb. These analyses suggest they diverged in the Miocene epoch 23.03 to 5.33 million years ago (Mya), which is "much earlier" than indicated in the fossil record. Lifespan. Bounding is the result of simultaneous lifting of the limbs off the ground. For example, a study conducted in a central California marshland indicated crayfish formed nearly 100% of the river otter's diet at certain times of the year. , Threats to North American river otter populations in North America vary regionally. However, North American river otters remain rare or absent in the southwestern United States. Pups reach maturity by the time they are 2 years to 3 years old. In 1980, an examination conducted on U.S. river otter populations determined they were extirpated in 11 states, and had experienced drastic lapses in 9 others.  Otters are known to take larger fish on land to eat, whereas smaller fish are consumed in the water. The embryo won’t implant in the female’s uterus until environmental conditions are the most favorable for survival following birth. Scent marking is imperative for intergroup communication. Male North American river otters disperse from such family groups more often than females. ), shiners (Notropis and Richardsonius spp. ); and perches (Perca spp.). , North American river otters often reside in beaver ponds. Without special training, most people can hold their breath for 30 seconds to a minute before they are pretty uncomfortable. It was suggested the caves were generally far from the main river and were protected sites.  However, North American river otters, as foragers, will immediately take advantage of other prey when readily obtainable.  An adult North American river otter has a total of 36 teeth. The species is widely distributed throughout its range. Be Her Village. Vigil holds a Master of Science in teaching from Nova Southeastern University and a Bachelor of Arts in secondary English education from the University of Central Oklahoma. Since then it has been given a total of 11 common names.  216pp. In the winter, crayfish made up one-third of the North American river otter's diet.  North American river otter harvests correlate positively with the North American beaver harvests and with the average beaver pelt price from the preceding year. Order: Carnivora Family: Mustelidae With the demise of the wolverine (Gulo luscus Linnaeus) in the Adirondacks in the late 1700’s or early 1800’s, the river otter became the region’s largest member of the weasel family.  The North American river otters have also been known to catch and consume moulting American wigeon (Mareca americana) and green-winged teal (Anas crecca). Otter Brigade image by Mr. Welton from Fotolia.com. ALL RIGHTS RESERVED. 1988. The most common fish consumed are perch, suckers, and catfish.  A 1994 river otter study reported findings of beaver remains in 27 of 1,191 scats analyzed. Little effort has gone into assessing the threat of disease to wild North American river otter populations, so it is poorly understood and documented. , North American river otters are renowned for their sense of play.  Females may caterwaul during or shortly after mating.  Fish species frequently found in the diets of the North American river otters include: Catostomidae, which consists of suckers (Catostomus spp.)  Every study done on the food habits of the North American river otter has identified varying fish species as being the primary component of its diet. Likewise, the potential predatory impact of otters may be considerable whenever fish are physically confined (most commonly in smaller ponds offering sparse cover or other escape options).  North American river otters do not generally handle prey of a large size relative to themselves but there are occasions where they've been observed ambushing and killing adult common snapping turtles while the large turtles (which are roughly equal in average body weight to a North American river otter) are hibernating. wild Neotropical river otter have a life expectancy of 11 years (Berry 2000), and surpasses it in captivity. At the tender age of 2 months, mama otter pushes the babies into the water for their first swim. 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. , The mothers raise their young without aid from adult males.  Invertebrates discovered within scats or digestive tracts could most likely be a secondary food item, first being consumed by the fish that are subsequently preyed upon by the North American river otters. North American river otters are natural swimmers and, with parental supervision, they acquire the skills necessary to swim. When at play or traveling, they sometimes give off low, purring grunts. An otter's tail is long and tapered, thickest where it joins the body and furred its entire length. A river otter's life begins in an unusual way. In addition, riverine habitats in interior regions supported smaller, but practical, otter populations.  Other prey consumed by North American river otters includes fruits, reptiles, amphibians, birds (most especially moulting ducks which render the birds flightless and thus makes them easier to capture), aquatic insects, small mammals, and mollusks. Fur of the North American river otter is thick and lustrous and is the most durable of Native American furs. She taught high school and middle school English and drama for 11 years.  They have long bodies, and long whiskers that are used to detect prey in dark waters. A highly active predator, the North American river otter has adapted to hunting in water, and eats aquatic and semiaquatic animals. Declines in the richness and diversity of prey species may explain these changes. However, playful behavior was found in only 6% of 294 observations in a study in Idaho, and was limited mostly to immature otters.. Since they swim so much, and get much of their food from the water, holding their breath for a long time … North American river otters also may use hollow trees or logs, undercut banks, rock formations, backwater sloughs, and flood debris. Other research maintains that river otters mate for life. , Amphibians and reptiles are more obtainable by the North American river otter during the spring and summer as a result of breeding activity, appropriate temperatures, and water supply for the prey. Prey is captured with a quick lunge from ambush, or more rarely, after a sustained chase. Encounters between North American river otters and beavers are not necessarily hostile. Otter have been known to live sixteen years in captivity, and may live 10 – 20 yrs in the wild.  In Canada, North American river otters occupy all provinces and territories, except for Prince Edward Island. They are born with a full fur coat and teeth already emerging. So much so, that Massachusetts has an "Otter River". Sliding occurs mostly on even surfaces of snow or ice, but can also occur on grassy slopes and muddy banks. Whelps are fully weaned by 3 months or 4 months. Otters that live in nature can live even longer if it wasn’t for the construction activity expansion by humans .  Game fish, such as trout (Salmonidae) and pike (Esocidae), are not a significant component of their diets.  A study conducted on North American river otters in a southwestern Arkansas swamp identified a correlation between crayfish consumption, fish consumption, and water levels. The throat, chin, and lips are grayer than the rest of the body.  However, when water levels are lower, crayfish will seek out shelter while fish become more highly concentrated and susceptible to predation. Range. Therefore, fish are more vulnerable to being preyed upon by otters because the crayfish have become more difficult to obtain. The actual embryonic development takes about 60-63 days . But there is one species, the Asian small-clawed otter, which could be legal in some states. However, it is positively associated with the number of beaver flowages, watershed length, and average shoreline diversity. Gestation. It had a thick, lush coat of dark brown fur with short webbed feet. The Japanese River Otter was only found in Japan, mainly in wetland a… The claws are well-formed and facial vibrissae (about 5 mm (0.20 in) long) are present. A few of the caves were used to rear young.  Appendix II lists species that are not necessarily threatened with extinction currently, but may become so unless trade is closely controlled. PART OF WILD SKY MEDIA | FAMILY & PARENTING, University of Georgia Museum of Natural History: Northern River Otter, PBS: Yellowstone Otters, Life of the Otter, National Geographic: American River Otter, Prospect Park Zoo: North American River Otter. Copulation is vigorous, and is interrupted by periods of rest.  Likewise, the common carp (Cyprinus carpio) is a preferred fish species for the North American river otter in other regions of Colorado. An adult North American river otter can weigh between 5.0 and 14 kg (11.0 and 30.9 lb).  A North American river otter's main requirements are a steady food supply and easy access to a body of water. Rear leg paddling enables continuous sliding where gravity is an insufficient or an opposing force.  In Georgia, crayfish accounted for two-thirds of the prey in the summer diet, and their remnants were present in 98% of the summer spraint. , The North American river otter is a stocky animal of 5 to 14 kilograms (11 to 31 lb), with short legs, a muscular neck (no smaller than the head) and an elongated body that is broadest at the hips. As such, careful consideration of any threatened, endangered, or fish species of special interest is warranted prior to reintroduction of otters to a watershed.  On land or ice, the North American river otter is considerably more vulnerable. Family groups may include helpers, which can be made up of unrelated adults, yearlings, or juveniles. Weaning occurs at 12 weeks, and females provide solid food for their progeny until 37–38 weeks have transpired.  Bottom-dwelling species, which have the tendency to remain immobile until a predator is very close, are susceptible to North American river otters.  The number of corpora lutea increases directly with age. , North American river otters typically breed from December to April. , The North American river otter is more social than most mustelids. River otter become mature at 2 to 3 years old. Otters typically live 15 to 20 years in captivity, but the wild river otter life span is dramatically lower: Most live to be no more than 8 or 9 years old. , The right lung of the North American river otter is larger than the left, having four lobes compared with two for the left. In the late 1970s, annual harvest in North America reached approximately 50,000 pelts, for a value of US$3 million. Giant otters have a life span of 12 years in the wild, 21 years in captivity. , During the 1970s, improvements in natural resource management techniques emerged, along with increased concerns about North American river otter population declines in North America. North American river otters have transparent nictitating membranes to protect their eyes while swimming. During walking, the limbs are moved in a plane parallel to the long axis of the body.  Den sites include burrows dug by woodchucks (Marmota monax), red foxes (Vulpes vulpes), nutria (Myocastor coypus), or beaver and muskrat lodges. It makes its home in a burrow near the water's edge, and can thrive in river, lake, swamp, or estuary ecosystems.  They are less likely to be prey for the North American river otters since they are fast-swimming and can find good escape cover. ); darters (Etheostoma spp. There is a delayed implantation and thus the total gestation time varies from 290 to 380 days. Home ranges of males are larger than those of females, and both sexes exhibit intra- and intersexual overlap of their domains. The river otter is protected and insulated by a thick, water-repellent coat of fur. The smell and hearing abilities of the North American river otter are acute. Adaptations: River otters are well suited for their semi-aquatic lifestyle. A river otter's life begins in an unusual way. Lontra longicaudis. , The fur of the species is short (guard hairs average 23.8 mm (0.94 in)), with a density of about 57,800 hairs/cm2 (373,000 hairs/in2) in the midback section. A Painted Turtle's Life Cycle From Egg to Adult, How to Know the Difference Between a Female & Male Sea Turtle. Long and sleek, it has short legs, webbed feet, and a long tapered tail. Adirondack Mammals. The vulnerability and seasonal availability of prey animals mainly governs its food habits and prey choices. Male North American river otters do not seem to be territorial, and newly dispersing males may join established male groups.  Fish remnants were found present in 91.9% of the scat samples.  In 2010, the Colorado Department of Wildlife reported the species, reintroduced in the 1980s, was "thriving" and recommended its protection status be reconsidered. The European otter, a semi-aquatic species, lives along coasts and in a wide variety of freshwater habitats. ); and Ictaluridae, which consists of bullheads and catfish (Ictalurus spp.). Little is known about the longevity of these animals, but one specimen lived 14.9 years old in captivity . , Lontra canadensis is listed in Appendix II of the Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species of Wild Fauna and Flora. It establishes a burrow close to the water's edge in river, lake, swamp, coastal shoreline, tidal flat, or estuary ecosystems. Its height at the shoulder is about 10 inches. Males are sexually mature at two years of age. During the dry season, they will recede from the marshland and move to permanent ponds, where water is available and food is in greater supply.  A study conducted on captive otters revealed they preferred larger fish, ranging from 15 to 17 centimeters (5.9 to 6.7 in), more than smaller fish, ranging from 8 to 10 centimeters (3.1 to 3.9 in), and they had difficulty catching fish species less than 10 centimeters (3.9 in) or larger than 17 centimeters (6.7 in). Even such fast-swimming species as trout become lethargic in extremely cold water, with a commensurate increase in their vulnerability to predation.  Crustaceans (crayfish), where regionally available, are the second-most important prey for otters. How long can you hold your breath?  The dental formula is 184.108.40.206.1.3.2. more Meet a man whose roommates are a pair of river otters. The species name was Lutra canadensis. For instance, an Alberta, Canada study involved the collection and analysis of 1,191 samples of North American river otter scats collected during each season. North American river otters can remain underwater for nearly 4 minutes, swim at speeds approaching 11 km/h (6.8 mph), dive to depths nearing 20 m (22 yd), and travel up to 400 m (440 yd) while underwater. The ears are short, the neck is the same diameter as the head, the legs are short and powerful, the toes are fully webbed, and the tail (one-third of body length) is tapered.  Otters consume more aquatic insects in the summer as the populations increase and specific life stages heighten their susceptibility. The most common one is at the zoo.  The oldest fossil record of an Old World river otter comes from the late Pliocene epoch (3.6 to 1.8 Mya). , North American river otters may prefer to feed on crustaceans, especially crayfish (Cambarus, Pacifasticus, and others) more than fish where they are locally and seasonally plentiful. , The North American river otter was first classified in the genus Lutra; Lutra was the early European name. In coastal areas, males may remain gregarious even during the estrous period of females. Terrestrial predators include the bobcat (Lynx rufus), mountain lion (Puma concolor), coyote (Canis latrans), domestic dog (Canis lupus familiaris), wolf (Canis lupus), black bear (Ursus americanus) and (in young or small North American river otters) red fox (Vulpes vulpes) . These are features common to other otter … North American river otters dry themselves and uphold the insulative quality of their fur by frequent rubbing and rolling on grass, bare ground, and logs. Adult males also commonly establish enduring social groupings, some documented to comprise as many as 17 individuals. Home ranges of North American river otters increase in size on oiled areas compared to unoiled areas, and individual otters also modify their habitat use. Log jams are heavily used when present. After the parents breed and an egg is fertilized, the embryo becomes inactive in a stage called delayed implantation. Fish are the primary component of the North American river otter's diet throughout the year.  Slow-moving species include suckers (Catostomidae), catfish, sunfish and bass (Centrarchidae), daces, carp, and shiners (Cyprinidae). The Neotropical river otter is also known to use caves as shelters, which other otters tend not to do.  Delayed implantation distinguishes the species from the European otter, which lacks this feature. , North American river otters, like most predators, prey upon the most readily accessible species. Aquatic predators include the American alligator (Alligator mississippiensis), American crocodile (Crocodylus acutus), and killer whale (Orcinus orca), none of which commonly coexist with the North American river otter and thus rarely pose a threat. Females are about 25 percent smaller than males. Reintroduction projects have expanded their distribution in recent years, especially in the Midwestern United States. During the breeding, the male grabs the female by the neck with his teeth. What is clear is that there is a delayed implantation of nine to 11 months, with actual gestation taking about 6… In addition, the length of the trachea of the North American river otter is intermediate between that of terrestrial carnivores and marine mammals. Meet Our River Otters Three North American River Otters, Linus, Calvin and Hobbes, reside in the Ralph Perkins II Wildlife Center & Woods Garden (presented by KeyBank) at the Cleveland Museum of Natural History. , Records of North American otters preying upon North American beavers (Castor canadensis) vary; it has been reported in the southern boreal forest of Manitoba. Fish is a favored food among the otters, but they also consume various amphibians (such as salamanders and frogs), freshwater clams, mussels, snails, small turtles and crayfish.  The North American river otters favor bog lakes with banked shores containing semiaquatic mammal burrows and lakes with beaver lodges. Otter play mostly consists of wrestling with conspecifics. Small fish are eaten at the surface, but larger ones are taken to the shore to be consumed. The lifespan of other species like the giant river otter or the European otter is more or less the same. Although other prey species are of temporary significance to the North American river otter, the deciding factor whether the North American river otter can establish itself as a permanent resident of one location is the year-round availability of fish. Accidental deaths may be the result of ice flows or shifting rocks. While current harvest strategies do not pose a threat to maintaining otter populations, harvest may limit expansion of otter populations in some areas. By the early 1900s, North American river otter populations had declined throughout large portions of their historic range in North America. Medicines for dogs are perfect for otter vaccination.  Mammals preyed upon by North American river otters are characteristically small or are a type species found in riparian zones. , Waterfowl, rails, and some colonial nesting birds are preyed upon by North American river otters in various areas. , North American river otters do not dramatically reduce prey populations in the wild, generally speaking. Water pollution and other diminution of aquatic and wetland habitats may limit distribution and pose long-term threats if the enforcement of water quality standards is not upheld.  Most aquatic invertebrates preyed upon by the otters are from the families Odonata (dragonfly nymphs), Plecoptera (stonefly nymphs), and Coleoptera (adult beetles).  The earliest known fossil of Lontra canadensis, found in the US Midwest, is from the Irvingtonian stage (1,800,000 to 300,000 years ago). River otters spend two-thirds of the time on … Northern river otter Synonyms Lutra canadensis Lifespan, ageing, and relevant traits Maximum longevity 27 years (captivity) Source ref.  Other fish an integral part of the North American river otters' diets are those that are often plentiful and found in large schools: sunfish (Lepomis spp. , North American river otters are polygynous. , In early spring, expectant mothers begin to look for a den where they can give birth. Female North American river otters give birth in these burrows, producing litters of one to six young.  However, many other studies did not report any findings of North American beaver remains in the scat sampled. When a copious supply of food dwindles or other prey becomes available, North American otters either transfer to a new location or convert their dietary choices to the most adequate prey.  Remains of the much larger North American beaver have been found in North American river otter scat in some regions, although most otter dietary studies in areas where otters and beaver are sympatric do not show them to be regular predators of beavers (despite the claims of fur-trappers that otters frequently hunt beavers) and perhaps only young beaver kits may be attacked. The giant otter is well suited for an aquatic life, and can close its ears while underwater. In some regions, though, their population is controlled to allow the trapping and harvesting of otters for their pelts. Its body length ranges from 66 to 107 centimetres (26 to 42 in). They are absent from Argentina, Chile, and Uruguay. ), and other game fish during spawning. Similarly, many perceived threats to North American river otters, such as pollution and habitat alterations, have not been rigorously evaluated. Otter fur is a rich, dark brown and is lighter on the … The North American otter’s mating season is in the later winter and early spring – roughly March and April. Recently, long-term genetic consequences of reintroduction projects on remnant North American river otter populations has been discussed. The North American river otter, a member of the subfamily Lutrinae in the weasel family (Mustelidae), is equally versatile in the water and on land. The most severe population declines occurred in interior regions where fewer aquatic habitats supported fewer otter populations. , North American river otters swim by quadrupedal paddling, forelimb paddling, alternate hind-limb paddling, simultaneous hind-limb paddling, or body and tail dorsoventral undulation. Length: Adult river otters are about four to five and one-half feet long, including its 18-inch tail.  In late 2012, a river otter nicknamed Sutro Sam took up residence around the former site of the Sutro Baths in San Francisco, the first river otter sighting in that city in more than half a century. A river otter can grow three to four feet (0.9 to 1.2 meters) long including its tail and weigh between 11 and 30 pounds (5 to 14 kilograms). Meet a man whose roommates are a pair of river otters. However, urbanization and pollution instigated reductions in range area. The first ever giant river otter cub born in Asia arrived at Wildlife Reserves Singapore just this last August, UPI reports.Dr. As the front feet make contact with the ground, the back feet are lifted and land where the front paws first contacted the ground, producing a pattern of tracks in pairs typical of most mustelids. It is the otter species with the widest distribution, being spread widely across Europe. , Historical records indicate North American river otters were once populous throughout most major drainages in the continental United States and Canada prior to European settlement. Sliding across snow and ice is a rapid and efficient means of travel, and otters traveling over mountain passes, between drainages, or descending from mountain lakes often slide continuously for several hundred meters. In Idaho, juvenile, yearling, and adult males averaged 8, 11, and 17% heavier, respectively, than females of the same age. It must remain in motion to maintain its position at the surface.