North American River Otter

The lively river otter of North America is well suited for semi-aquatic life. The creatures can stay warm when swimming in chilly waters because of their thick, insulating fur. They feature flattened heads, long, slender bodies, and webbed feet for speedier swimming as well as short legs and webbed feet. The otter is propelled through the water by its long, powerful tail. They are capable of submerging themselves for up to eight minutes.

North American river otters have long whiskers, which they use to detect prey in dark or cloudy water, and clawed feet for grasping onto slippery prey. They are very flexible and can make sharp, sudden turns that help them catch fish. Their fur is dark brown over much of the body, and lighter brown on the belly and face. On land a river otter can run at speeds of up to 15 miles (24 kilometers) an hour—they can slide even faster. Their playful snow and mud sliding, tail chasing, water play, and snow burrowing activities also serve other purposes—they help strengthen social bonds and let young otters practice hunting techniques.

With its tail, a river otter may reach a length of three to four feet (0.9 to 1.2 meters) and weigh between 11 and 30 pounds (5 to 14 kilograms). In general, males are bigger than females. About a third of their total length is made up of the tail.


With the exception of some regions of the Southwest and the delta regions of the Rio Grande and Colorado Rivers in Mexico, the majority of Canada and the United States are home to the North American river otter. As long as the environment has enough food, they may survive in any body of water, including ponds, marshes, lakes, rivers, and estuaries—in regions that are cold, warm, or even high in elevation. River otter dens are located near the river in bare hollows or abandoned burrows. The dens are easily accessible from the ocean since they have underwater entrances. North American river otters are occasionally preyed upon by bobcats, alligators, coyotes, raptors, and other big predators.


The water species that river otters consume include fish, crayfish, crabs, frogs, birds’ eggs, and reptiles like turtles. Additionally, they have been observed to consume water vegetation and hunt other small animals like muskrats or rabbits. They must feed regularly because of their extremely high metabolism.