The rainy and snowy climate of North American Taiga can help you reach a river otter. A river otter, coming from the family of Mustelidae, is usually found in the fresh water, ponds, lakes, logs near grassy areas, thick woods and marshes. The perfect swimmer and smart hunters, river otters have long and sharp whiskers like needle. They have broad skull, small round eyes, short nostrils, heavy legs and narrowed tail. Most of them have dark brownish coloured back while their stomach may be of light brown and gray colour. Sometimes people make an error pointing them as their sea-dwelling cousin sea otter which is much larger than them. The major difference between the two is that sea otters are accustomed to salt water, and come to shoreline rarely in order to take rest while river otters are found in fresh water and travel across the lands for a considerable time period. Have a look over the next part of the article to gain an insight over the facts and figures relating to river otters. Here it goes.
Scientific Name: Pteronura brasiliensis
Other Names: North American river otter, northern river otter, American otter, Canada otter, Canadian otter, fish otter, land otter, nearctic river otter, and Prince of Wales otter
Origin: North America
Species: L. canadensis
Body Length: 0.66 m (26 in) to 1.07 m (42 in)
Tail Length: 30 to 50 cm (11.75 to 19.75 in)
Weight: 5 to 14 kg (11–31 lb)
Diet: Primarily fish, and crustaceans, molluscs, insects, birds, oysters, shellfish, crabs, crayfish, frogs, rodents, turtles and aquatic invertebrates
Lifespan: 8-15 years
Habitat: Slow-moving rivers and creeks within forests, swamps, and marshes, Prefer aquatic environment
Sexual Maturity: Approximately 2 years
Gestation Period: 62-63 days
Mating season: December to April
Number of Offspring: 1-6
Interesting Facts About River Otters
- Male river otters are usually larger than their female counterparts. Sometimes they are around 17 % larger than females.
- Talking about their speed, river otters can swim at a speed of about 6 miles per hour. Besides, underneath the water surface, the speed slows down to 3 to 4 miles per hour.
- Their eyes are found to be close to the acme of their skull which enables them to see beyond the water level while swimming below the water surface.
- They have small ears while the nose pad is sufficiently large with snout rounded with very long fuzz.
- The nostrils of river otters are positioned at the apex of the nose which enables to breathe while swimming underwater. Interestingly the nostrils get closed automatically when they submerge in the water.
- River otters are social in nature and usually like to roam in groups of 4-8; sometimes congregations of even 20 individuals can be seen. They preserve a domiciling range of 12 km2 which is watched and remembered on a regular basis through their exceptional anal glands characterising their belongingness with mustelids.
- They have very sensitive body hair which hoists vibrations below the surface.
- They get forward thrift during swimming by the four webbed feet.
- River otters are experts in voicing as much as nine vocalizations ranging from screams of excitement to coos of appreciation.
- At the time of birth, river otters do not have teeth and are blind. As they reach the age of seven week they start to move.
- It is at the age of 16 weeks that the young otters start catching fishes in the water.
- They need healthy fishes (in their diet) and unpolluted water to survive.
- In late winter, when water levels experience dramatic fall making the rivers and lakes totally freeze up, river otters travel and hunt under the ice with the help of layer of air formed.
- River otters are expert in digesting and metabolizing the food intake. It takes just an hour for their intestines to pass the food.
- Generally, river otters mate below the water surface. However, earthly mating is also commonly seen.
- Signs of communication between the river otters usually are senses of sound, touches and smells.
- Another interesting fact about river otter is that they find night as the best time to hunt. Also, they do not store the food and hunt only what they need to meet their hunger.
- They are known for good eating habits and clean themselves after taking their meals.
- Their guard hairs protect them from icy weather.
- They have two layers of guard hairs: outer and inner layer. The outer layer protects the inner fur by providing cover to the finer and denser under-fur of the body.
- They define their territory using porous odour glands through musky-smelling fluid.
- Their eyes are blessed with special lenses which help them gain sight when swimming submerged in the water.