River Otter

Category: Order: Family: Conservation Status:
Lutra canadensis

River otters live in coastal waters and on rocky shores.

River otters are opportunitistic feeders and prey on a variety of aquatic and terrestrial animals, including perch, sculpin, flatfish, crayfish, mussels, frogs, as well as diving birds.

River otters often escape predation -- birds of prey, coyotes and other large animals -- through their agility in the water and on land.


Size & Shape: 

River otters weigh between 13.6 - 15.9 kg, and are anywhere from 1.2 - 1.4 m in length. Males are generally larger than females.

Their tail accounts for 1/3 of the body's length.

Distinctive Markings: 
- dark brown fur, lighter on the belly - throat and cheeks are usually golden brown - vibrissae (whiskers) are long and thick - small head - webbed feet - long, slender tail

River otters are more social than most other members of the weasle family. Their social unit consists of a mother and her immature offspring. On occasion more than one mother with pups will join together. Adult males are usually not found interacting with females except during breeding season in late spring and early summer. Adult males and juvenile otters that have left their mother are generally solitary. It is common for siblngs to stick together for a while after they have sperated from their mothers.

River otters communicate in a variety of ways. They vocalize with whistles, growls, chuckles, and screams. They also scent mark using paired scent glands near the base of their tails or by urinating/defecating on vegetation within their home range. These glands produce a very strong, musky odor. They also use touch and communicate through posture and other body signals.

Life History

Oil spills are a major threat for river otters, since oil can penetrate their fur and cause hypothermia. Since otters are carnivores, some types of toxins (PCB's) can become bioaccumulated in their bodies. This means that a chemical becomes concentrated in successively higher amounts as it moves up the food chain.
BREEDING: 2 or 3 years of age NUMBER OF PUPS: Between 1 and 4 pups every one or two years GESTATION: 11 months PUP DEVELOPMENT: Pups are weaned at fve months although they may stay with their mother for longer. LONGEVITY: 10 to 15 years River otters mate shortly after the young are born.
Did you know?: 

- River otters have large home ranges, between 2-78km, and are constantly on the move within this range. Home range sizes vary considerably and seem to depend on the availability of food resources and suitable habitat
- River otters get their boundless energy from their very high metabolism, which also requires them to eat alot of food everyday.

First Nations

First Nations on Vancouver Island hunted river otters for their meat and pelts, and later participated in the European fur trade.

More Photos


Who Am I

Content Submitted by: