An online resource based on the award-winning nature guide

North American River Otter

Thanks for all the participation and creative Mystery Photo guesses . The “neck of the bird” was actually the tail of the otter! (The quality of the photograph didn’t exactly help)! Congratulations to those who guessed correctly!11-13-13 river otter 1064

North American River Otters are considered semi-aquatic mammals, comfortable on land as well as in water. The bulk of their diet is fish, and they are well adapted for an aquatic environment year round. They have dense fur with a waterproof undercoat, a layer of fat that insulates the body, and a long, streamlined body. They also have webbed feet, clear eyelids (nictitating membranes), that act like goggles, valves in their ears and nose that close automatically when they submerge, and the ability to stay underwater for up to eight minutes. Surprisingly, young otters are not instant swimmers, and must be taught how to swim when they are a couple of months old. The mother pushes them into the water and then stays close, repeatedly pushing them under the water and then up to breath. When the lesson is over she grabs each otter by the neck and pulls it out of the water. (Photo taken at Squam Lakes Natural Science Center.)

Naturally Curious is supported by donations. If you choose to contribute, you may go to and click on the yellow “donate” button.


6 responses

  1. Nannette Orr

    one of my favorite creatures – note: I did not sent the photo quiz – bad picture. anyway:

    I used to take you both to the Stamford Nature Center to watch them – do you remember? I learned something reading this (about the poor babies!)


    November 13, 2013 at 12:56 pm

  2. Martha’s Vineyard otter research, and more:

    November 13, 2013 at 1:09 pm

  3. Thanks Mary, fabulous photo and good info. I, too, have read that river otters spend a lot of time on land (I think about 75% of their time) but as a tracker, I am struck that we do not find more sign of them on land. Most of their tracks, slides, and scats are at the edge of a water body. They sometimes venture into the woods, but usually not terribly far, and I have only once found an otter trail ending in a den (under the root ball of a fallen tree at a wetland edge). I have read that they spend a lot of time resting in dense shrubbery, etc., but if that’s true, I don’t understand why we find so little evidence of it. Their trails/slides usually go in and out of the water.

    November 13, 2013 at 2:29 pm

    • Hi Janet, I’ve had exactly the same experience. I have found them crossing a large field to get from one pond to another, but 99% of the otter sign I have seen has also been near ponds. I’ve never read the 75% on land figure, and our combined observations tend to make me question it…

      November 13, 2013 at 2:46 pm

  4. One of my favorite critters!

    November 15, 2013 at 7:37 pm

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s