The playful behaviors river otters are known for are more than just entertainment. These behaviors allow the otters to build and strengthen social bonds, practice hunting techniques, and even scent mark their territory.
Coloration is dark brown on their body, fading to a lighter shade on their abdomen, with golden brown cheeks
Body is long and streamlined with a thick, tapered tail
Legs are short and feet are webbed, with a claw on each digit
Head is wide and round, with small ears and long, thick vibrissae (whiskers)
Eyes are small and on the side of the head
North American river otters are only one of two otter species that employ delayed implantation, in which the fertilized egg will remain dormant for a period of time. With this species, the female can keep the fertilized egg dormant for up to ten months, before giving birth two months later. Females will give birth to an average of two to three pups, which are born with fur, but are otherwise completely helpless. Growth happens quickly: the pups open their eyes when they are one month old, learn to eat solid food at three months old, learn to swim at four months old, and become independent between six months to a year old.
The combination of water pollution and the lucrative fur hunting industry resulted in the North American river otter being completely eradicated in many parts of its native range. Through the implementation of clean water regulations, furbearer management techniques, and conservation and reintroduction programs, the North American river otter has successfully reclaimed many of these areas.
Fun fact: North American river otters can hold their breath for up to eight minutes and run up to 18 mph (29 kph).
47 to 71 inches (119 to 181 centimeters)
Frogs, fish, turtles, crayfish, crabs, and other invertebrates with the occasional bird, bird eggs, and small terrestrial mammals
U.S. and Canada