North American River Otter

North American river otters rarely stray far from the banks of shallow rivers. They live alone or in pairs, but often play with other individuals in the area. This play strengthens social ties. Each of the otters has an individual scent which it uses to mark its territory. North American river otters communicate with each other through sounds such as whistles, growls, chuckles and screams.

North American river otters are known for their boundless energy, and they must eat frequently. They catch fish in their mouths and detect other prey by feeling with their whiskers along the bottoms of streams. Unlike many other otters which chew their food, the river otter's prey is gulped down immediately.

Mating takes place in March and April. The young are born almost a year later. The females give birth in dens close to the water's edge. They drive the males away soon after the birth of their young, but the dog otters return later to help raise the offspring. The young depart at the age of one year.

Distribution: Widespread across most of North America.

Habitat: Rivers and lakes.

Food: Amphibians, fish, crayfish and aquatic insects.

Size: 60 - 110 cm (23.5 - 43 in); 3 - 14 kg (6.5 - 30 lb).

Maturity: 2 - 3 years.

Breeding: 1 - 5 young born every year.

Life span: 20 years.

Status: Lower risk.