River otter

  • <p>North American river otter (Lontra canadensis)</p>
  • <p>Otters are social mammals, with groups observed to be as large as 17 individuals</p>
  • <p>River otter pups typically stay with their mothers until they are about a year old</p>
  • <p>Otters prefer eating invertebrates and fish</p>

While elusive, the playful North American river otter is a semi-aquatic mammal found in any water habitat of North America. River otters dwell in dens made from abandoned burrows along these water habitats, often with entrances found underwater. If you see a trail of broken or flattened grasses from the bank of Cypress Creek into the water, there's a good chance that is where an otter slid down the bank to enter the creek.

The river otter, 3-4 feet in length and 11-30 lbs as an adult, is well adapted to the water habitats in which it resides. It has thick, protective fur to keep it warm in cold water. Its long, flexible body and flattened head make it streamline and nimble. Its short legs with webbed feet and muscular tail propel it through the water swiftly. The otter also can close its nostrils when diving into the water and hold its breath for up to 8 minutes.

The otter provides valuable services to water bodies its inhabits, like Cypress Creek. As an apex predator, it keep all of its prey species populations balanced. As an indicator species, its presence tells us our water quality is relatively good, and its absence warns us pollution may be affecting the cleanliness of our water. Historically, the otter has been valued as a furbearer, as well.

The North American river otter was hunted to near extinction for its fur in the 19th and 20th centuries, and is still hunted in some places. It was extirpated from portions of its range, but efforts to restore river otter populations are helping the species to recover. Water population and habitat destruction are still threats to the species.