Active year-round. Mostly crepuscular (dawn or dusk) but have been seen at all times of the day. Breed in late March through April; one litter of two young per year. Females and offspring remain together until next litter; may temporarily join other family groups. Can swim underwater up to 6 miles per hour and for 2–3 minutes at a time.
Ears and nostrils close when underwater; whiskers aid in locating prey. Not agile or fast on land unless they find snow or ice, then can move rapidly by alternating hops and slides; can reach speeds of 15 miles per hour. May move long distances between waterbodies.
Sleek, cylindrical body; small head; tail nearly one third of the body and tapers to a point; feet webbed; claws short; fur is dark dense brown.
40-54 inches (1-1.4 m)
10-30 pounds (4.5-13.6 kg)
Up to 14 years in the wild, but have lived up to 25 years in captivity.
Most aquatic member of weasel family; generally found near water.
SIGNS OF PRESENCE:
Very shy and wary of humans, otter surveyors and researchers rarely get a chance to actually see river otters in action and have to rely on signs of their presence to determine the location of most river otters. Otter spraint (scat) and tracks are the most obvious signs of presence. However “otter slides” are the a quick way to not only determine the presence of otters, but the location of their resting spots. These slide occur near water where the otter makes frequent trips back and forth from a resting spot to the water to get fish or other food. The multiple trips beat down the grass and turn the land muddy and slippery, much like a mud-and-grass slide. If you find an otter slide, be careful when inspecting it as otters are active at dusk and dawn and rest during the day so it’s possible to come upon sleeping otter if you follow a slide away from the water. Like any wild animal, otters can react aggressively if startled so waking up a sleeping otter is not recommended. Otter spraint displayed prominently on rocks, ledges and other easily visible areas near water is another clear sign of presence. When an otter has determined a river or stream is good for food, they will “claim” the territory as their own by leaving their mark: a spraint pile placed on a high ground for others to see and know the area is claimed. Sometimes the “noticeable” spraint isn’t obvious to humans – they may be located under the ledge of rock outcroppings, in the back of a cave or inside a dug hole – but the spraint will be very noticeable to rival predators who feed, climb, walk, sleep, rest or hide in those areas too small for humans to access. Nearly all signs of river otter presence are temporary and can be washed away by a rainstorm.
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