Using their long whiskers, river otters are able to locate prey in dark or cloudy water.
Using their long whiskers, river otters are able to locate prey in dark or cloudy water.
Photograph by Nicole Duplaix

River Otter

Sliding and wrestling, belly flopping, and somersaulting, river otters really know how to play! They take advantage of any slippery slope for fun, whether it's a summer slide down a muddy hill or a winter thrill on snow and ice. They glide on their bellies with their front paws by their sides. River otters are aquatic mammals.

Common Name:
North American River Otter
Scientific Name:
Lontra canadensis
Type:
Mammals
Diet:
Carnivore
Average Life Span In The Wild:
8 to 9 years
Size:
Head and body: 21.75 to 31.5 inches; tail: 11.75 to 19.75 inches
Weight:
11 to 30 pounds

River otters generally live along rivers, as their name implies, but they're also found near streams and lakes. Otters prefer water bordered by woods and with wetlands, such as marshes, nearby. Flexing their long bodies up and down, paddling with their webbed hind feet, and using their feet and strong tails to steer, river otters are underwater acrobats. They can stay underwater for up to four minutes.

As they dive, they close their ears and nostrils to keep water out. They hunt underwater, skillfully chasing fish, their main food. Otters grab their prey in their mouths. When the otters catch large fish, they haul them onto shore to dine.

While river otters spend most of their time in water, they do travel across land as well—often in search of a mate. Otters even make their land travel look playful. They run a few steps and then slide on their bellies. Clearly, otters know how to have fun!