They are known to dig tunnels under the … Few river otter predators exist in nature. River otters belong to the weasel family. North Fork, Whetstone River. These are river otters. Mammals of Montana. It has a long, slender body covered in brown, water proof fur. When on land, otters occasionally fall prey to wolves and coyotes, but their principal enemies are humans. Observations in Montana Natural Heritage Program Database. River otters are smaller than their cousins, the sea otters. A sea otter! 2004); Evaluating structural characteristics and distribution of each ecological system relative to the species' range and habitat requirements; Examining the observation records for each species in the state-wide point observation database associated with each ecological system; Calculating the percentage of observations associated with each ecological system relative to the percent of Montana covered by each ecological system to get a measure of "observations versus availability of habitat". Williams, P.C. The long guard hairs remain pliable in very cold weather (Ulrich 1986), and the dense underfur traps air to insulate it in water. R1-93-34. Hendricks, C.R. Mountain Press Publishing, Missoula, Montana. Open-water stream channels used (Zackheim 1982). The northern river otter (Lutra canadensis) historically lived in or near lakes, marshes, streams, and seashores throughout much of the North American continent. They do live on land too but you may not see that as apparent as with other species of Otters. Its thick, powerful tail makes up nearly 20 inches of that length. 1998, Hutto and Young 1999, Maxell 2000, Foresman 2012, Adams 2003, and Werner et al. Copyright 2021 Leaf Group Ltd. / Leaf Group Media, All Rights Reserved. In 1986, the Ohio Division of Wildlife began a seven-year project to reintroduce the species to the state. Image of canadensis, nature, otter - 28343614 Protecting these fascinating, playful animals aids many species. Peterson, and R.L. The North American river otter is a member of the mustelid or weasel family that can be easily identified by a stout body, short legs, noticeably tapered tail and dense, short, glossy fur. Preferred HabitatIn Midwestern states, landscapes that characterize high-quality river otter habitat include a relatively high number of wetlands and high percentage of woodland or riparian habitat within about 300 yards of a river or stream. The North American river otter was once nearly eliminated in Missouri, but thanks to restoration efforts, these powerful swimmers are once again found throughout most of the state. They use their long, agile bodies to swim and hunt for many prey species such as fish, amphibians, crustaceans and other organisms. 429 pp. Marsh near Punished Woman's Lake. Thornton, K.P. The young are born fur-covered, but blind (Burt and Grossenheider 1964), they are weaned in approximately 91 days (Toweill and Tabor 1982), and they are ready to fend for themselves at eight months of age (Zeveloff and Collett 1988). Its feet are webbed. River otters are apex predators in various watershed environments. Small mammals in the river otter food chain include mice, immature beavers and muskrats. The river otter is protected and insulated by a thick, water-repellent coat of fur. River otters chew their food well, leaving very little waste. When cornered on land, they will fight and scratch. The river otter food web maintains great biodiversity. It can swim and maneuver better than many fish, and swims with only the top of its head out of the water. The river otter food chain also includes aquatic plants and roots. Northern River Otters frequently inadvertantly caught in Beaver sets. Their thick fur made them highly prized for their pelts. The northern river otter (Lontra canadensis, formerly Lutra canadensis) is a semi-aquatic carnivorous mammal in the Mustelidae or “weasel family” which includes weasels, minks, ferrets, wolverines and badgers. River otters also use fallen trees or logjams for shelter or foraging. River otters possess special valves to seal their ears and noses while they swim underwater. Adams, R.A.  2003. River otters are apex predators in their food web. Underwater, the river otter swims as fast as 7 miles per hour with considerable grace and agility, necessary for catching prey. Northern River Otter. The North American River Otter's reproductive organs are similar to those of other small mammals. This tail serves to propel the otters through water. Montana atlas of terrestrial vertebrates. Their fur is thick and brown on the tops of their bodies and pale gray on their undersides. Northern River Otter Lontra canadensis. The female otter's ovaries increase in size as maturation occurs. Otters have sharp claws on their feet to catch prey. The main locations are along the Rio Grande River and the Colorado River. Neotropical migrant land birds in the Northern Rockies and Great Plains. The ultimate river otter predators are humans. Order of importance varies: sunfish, suckers, sculpin, trout, invertebrates, and frogs. Copyright Jeff Rice, all rights reserved. River otters are smaller than their cousins, the sea otters. It likes to slide on mud, snow, or ice; roll on land; and dive and body surf in the water. Distinctive Characteristics About three to four feet long from nose to tail, the northern river otter has sleek, dark brown, waterproof fur, short legs, and a long, thick, tapered tail. Their dense, short under-fur is overlain by darker, coarse guard hairs that help repel wa… Otters often are found in aquatic habitats associated with beaver activity and in shallow pools or below small dams where fish are concentrated. 2004. North American river otters are the only river otter that is found north of Mexico. 1982). The animal slides down mud and snow seemingly for the sheer delight of it. Boulder, CO: University Press of Colorado. Habitat relationships of landbirds in the Northern Region, USDA Forest Service, Rocky Mountain Research Station RMRS-GTR-32. Their toes are webbed, they have short legs and they boast a tapered tail ranging up to 15 inches long. Small eyes and ears, a broad, flattened head, long cylindrical form, and four webbed feet suit it for its semiaquatic life. River otters can be found throughout much of the United States, Canada and Mexico around the Rio Grande and Colorado River deltas. It has 36 teeth. The mammals have thick, protective fur to help them keep warm while swimming in cold waters. USDA Forest Service, Northern Region. Generally solitary, river otters do engage in play when they meet. The river otter is the largest member of the weasel family (Mustelidae). The fur is dark brown or almost black above with lighter underside. and J.S. View in other NatureServe Network Field Guides, It seems your browser doesn't support HTML5 audio. Here is a to the audio instead. Its thick, powerful tail makes up nearly 20 inches of that length. River otter habitat. The river otter has a long, streamlined body with dense brown fur. After an absence of more than a century, its … The American river otter is a graceful and beautiful addition to many North Carolina rivers. Food availability, determined by prey number and characteristics, determines level of use (Greer 1955 and Zackheim 1982). They have short legs, webbed feet for faster swimming, and a long, narrow body and flattened head for streamlined movement in the water. They enjoy carp, sunfish, minnows, suckers, sculpin and salmonids such as: River otters also prefer slower-moving fish to game fish. These otters have brown-to-gray fur, and their undersides are a lighter, silvery shade. Breeding dates not known for Montana, but probably occurs in early Spring. River otters possess long, muscular bodies suited to their life on both land and in water. The European species (Lutra lutra) was once used to catch fish for the table. The playful North American river otter is well adapted for semi-aquatic living. Montana Cooperative Wildlife Research Unit, University of Montana, Missoula, MT. Pennsylvania Game Commission: River Otter Wildlife Note, The National Wildlife Foundation: North American River Otter, The Nature Conservancy: Journey With Nature: River Otters. River otter habitat. Females typically are smaller. J. Dianne Dotson is a science writer with a degree in zoology/ecology and evolutionary biology. It is more nocturnal in summer and its eyes reflect a faint amber glow at night. Once abundant throughout the watersheds of the United States and Canada, river otter numbers suffered greatly due to hunting by humans. IUCN Otter Specialist Group Bulletin: Prey Preference of the North American River Otter (Lontra Canadensis) Evaluated Based on Optimal Foraging Theory. Otters are considered lucky animals in many Native American cultures and the otter is a symbol of loyalty and honesty in some West Coast tribes, but in northern British Columbia and the Alaskan coast, river otters (usually called "land-otters") were associated with ghosts and drowning and were regarded by the people with awe and dread. The otter was soon nicknamed Sutro Sam, and drew in legions of curious onlookers as he caught and chomped down fish, gathered reeds for bedding, and groomed or sunbathed on the concrete wall separating the baths from the beach.