North american river otter

They can close their nostrils during diving and staying underwater for as long as 8 minutes

Chris Paul

North american river otter


They can close their nostrils during diving and staying underwater for as long as 8 minutes

Population 100,000
<75% percent reduction of its historical extent

Sporting a diverse range of coat colors, including shades of grey, white, black, and brown, the North American river otter’s thick fur serves as a vital adaptation for survival in its aquatic environment. Comprising an astonishing 850,000 hairs per square inch (6.45 cm^2), this dense fur insulates the otter’s body, providing protection against the cold waters in which it resides. The otter’s narrow, elongated body and flattened head contribute to its streamlined form, facilitating swift and agile movement through the water as it hunts for prey.

As opportunistic carnivores, North American river otters exhibit a varied diet composed of a wide array of aquatic species. Their menu includes turtles, fish, amphibians, crayfish, crabs, and various invertebrates found in their freshwater habitats. This diverse diet reflects the otter’s adaptability and ability to exploit a range of food sources available within its aquatic ecosystem.

One remarkable aspect of North American river otter behavior is their method of teaching young otters to forage and hunt for prey. Mothers engage in a process known as “playful teaching,” in which they catch and release prey items, allowing their offspring to practice capturing and handling prey in a safe and controlled environment. This playful interaction not only helps young otters develop essential hunting skills but also strengthens the bond between mother and offspring.

Due to their high metabolic rate and energetic lifestyle, North American river otters must consume a substantial amount of food to sustain their daily activities. With their constant movement and active foraging behavior, otters expend significant energy reserves, necessitating frequent feeding intervals throughout the day. This high metabolic demand underscores the importance of a diverse and plentiful food supply within their freshwater habitats.


Population est.
Official estimate
Extinct locally:
Presence Uncertain
United States
Possibly Extinct: New Mexico
United States

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Terrestrial / Aquatic

Altricial / Precocial

Polygamous / Monogamous

Dimorphic (size) / Monomorphic

Active: Diurnal / Nocturnal

Social behavior: Solitary / Pack / Herd / Group

Diet: Carnivore / Herbivore / Omnivore / Piscivorous / Insectivore

Migratory: Yes / No

Domesticated: Yes / No

Dangerous: Yes / No