Mustelidae (badgers, otters, skunks, weasels and relatives)
Habitat & Range
River otters are primarily found along rivers, ponds and lakes in wooded areas, however they will roam far from water if necessary. River otters were once found throughout North America, but due to over hunting for their pelts they are now rare or extinct in local areas. Today they are still endangered but are slowly making a comeback.
North American river otters are semi-aquatic mammals with long, streamlined bodies, thick tapered tails, and short legs. They have wide, rounded heads, small ears, and nostrils that can be closed underwater. Their feet have claws and are completely webbed. Body length ranges from 26 to 42 inches and weight ranges from 10 to 30 pounds.
As carnivores, they are primarily fish eaters but will also consume frogs, crayfish and shellfish as well as small rodents.
Reproduction & Lifespan
Male and female river otters only interact during mating season (late winter to early spring). Males often breed with multiple females, likely those whose home range overlaps their own. Gestation lasts 2 months, however young may be born up to a year after mating because otters delay implantation of fertilized eggs for up to 8 months. Births occur between November and May, with a peak in March and April. Females give birth to an average of 3 pups in a den near the water.
River otters live an average of 10 to 20 years.
Fantastic Fact Two Can Play That Game
River otters are known for their sense of play, which they rely upon to learn survival skills such as hunting and fighting. Play usually takes place between two immature otters and consists of wrestling and chasing.
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