River Otter

Photo by Dickson Images

The North American river otter ( Lontra canadensis) is a member of the weasel family. It is a semi-aquatic mammal active on land and in the water. They are year-round residents of our refuges.


Otters can weigh as much as 30 pounds and are covered by a thick coat of water-resistant fur. Their fur was nearly their undoing as their pelts were prized by trappers. Numbers are rebounding because of improved water quality and decreased use of otter pelts in the garment industry.


Otters feed on fish, amphibians, shellfish, snails, and small turtles. They dig burrows close to the water's edge and give birth there to between one and six young (most commonly two or three). Females are often seen swimming and hunting accompanied by their juvenile young.