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

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