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The North American River Otter
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by Miranda Spencer

Welcome to the wonderful world of the river otter. While there are eight species of river otters that exist worldwide today, this article refers to the North American River Otter, Lutra canadensis.

Wouldn’t it be wonderful to play games, bask in the sun, and take playful and relaxing dips in cool water all day long, whenever you pleased? Welcome to the wonderful world of the river otter. While there are eight species of river otters that exist worldwide today, this article refers to the North American River Otter, Lutra canadensis.

Weighing approximately 10-20 pounds, the river otter possesses a thin, sleek body that reaches 38-47 inches in length, with the female of the species usually smaller in size. This amphibious mammal is well adapted to both land and water while inhabiting lakes, rivers, streams, and ponds of North America. The otter’s coat consists of short, thick, dark brown fur with the exception of a reddish yellow colored stomach. Its four webbed feet come in handy during numerous swimming breaks in the water close to its burrow. Interestingly enough, while the otter dives underwater, its nostrils and ears remain closed. Back on land, it uses all four webbed feet to walk.

The North American River Otter is active mostly at night when it feeds on shoreline aquatic inhabitants, preferably slow-moving fishes such as suckers, minnows, catfishes (and RARELY gamefishes as sometimes argued!). Other food includes crayfish, mollusks, and frogs. Since fish make up its favorite menu, the river otter frequents overhanging banks where the fish dwell. When it hunts, a river otter is rather playful with live prey. The otter is known to wrestle, chase, and instigate a game of catch and release, which serves to enhance its hunting abilities. Sounds such as chirping and grunting are often used when the river otter is playing or grooming. A high-pitched squeal, audible from as far away as two kilometers, is made when an otter couple fights or mates.

Unfortunately, the river otter is endangered in some states, but not presently in Florida. They require much space (up to 50 miles!) and development limits their habitat and reduces their numbers. Pollution, pesticides, and other human-related poisons are destroying the North American River Otters’ habitat and population. Adding to the otter’s dilemma is the fact that its fur is a prized possession for many hunters.

This adorable creature is not only a source of fun for humans who observe it in freshwater habitats. The North American River Otter is also a vital part of nature’s balance in the wilderness.

   
   

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