Indiana Animal Facts
North American River Otter
One of the many species that calls Indiana home, the North American river (or lontra canadensis) otter can be spotted along rivers, streams, and lakes throughout the state. Found throughout the majority of North America these adorable members of the animal kingdom make their habitats in riparian zones on the banks of these waterways. They can live in both marine and fresh water and prefer minimal human interaction with their habitats. An adult river otter weight in between 10 and 33 pounds and is between 2.5 and 5 feet long. They feed mostly on aquatic animals such as frogs, fish, turtles, insects, and the occasional smaller mammal. Although they prefer to hunt and forage in the water, they will often travel 10-18 miles across land in search of food.
Otters almost seem designed for their aquatic habitats. They swim through the water by using their strong tails to propel themselves. They also have webbed feet and water repellent fur, and their noses and ears can be shut while in the water. All of these traits come together to aide river otters in hunting and foraging for food.
North American river otters claim more space as their home than most small animals and they can range up to 30 square miles. Typically, however, their territories range from 3 to 15 square miles and they shrink even further during breeding season. These animals are well known for their playful and social behavior and studies have shown that their playtime actually improves an otter’s ability to hunt, mark territory with scent, and bond with other otters. Interestingly enough, there is contradictory evidence when it comes to the mating habits of river otters. Some studies have found that they mate for life, others show that the bonds between mates last only as long as the breeding season.
The river otter plays a very important role in the ecosystems surrounding rivers and other natural waterways. They help maintain the health of the ecosystem by controlling the populations of the animals they hunt for food. Thus, the presence of river otters along a waterway generally means that the ecosystem is healthy. Their habitats have shrunk with human expansion; however, they still exist in very large numbers. Additionally, they are quite sensitive to pollution.
- River otters can hold their breaths under water for up to 8 minutes.
- After every meal, river otters wash themselves.
- While diving river otters can reach a depth of 60 feet.
- Otters are actually a member of the weasel family.
- River otters typically live for 12 years, however the oldest known river otter died at 27-years-old.
- A baby river otter is known as a pup.
- Male otters do not assist with raising pups and females are minimally involved. Otter parenting mostly amounts to pushing the pup into the water for the first time, the rest is instinctual. The pups leave the nest within only 8 weeks.
- River otters were on the Indiana endangered species list until 2005. They were removed due to the effects of a statewide reintroduction project that released 303 otters between 1995 and 1999.
- https://www.nationalgeogr aphic.com/animals/mammals/n/north-american-river-otter/