Otters

Otters are semiaquatic to aquatic carnivores, and can be found on every continent save for Australia and Antarctica. There are 13 extant otter species, all of which are in the subfamily Lutrinae. Many otters are primarily fish eaters, though some are adapted to eat crustaceans. Most otter species swim and hunt primarily in fresh water, but the sea otter and marine otter prefer the sea as their names imply. Some fresh water otters, such as the Eurasian otter, may occasionally swim in the sea, but they need fresh water to wash off the salt water from their fur.

Otters have thick brown to grey fur with two layers. The inner layer keeps them warm while the outer layer protects them. They have long flexible bodies with long strong tails that can be used as rudders. Depending on the species, the shape of the tail can range from almost cylindrical to being somewhat flattened, but they all taper off to the end. Their nose, eyes and ears are arranged in a straight line so they can easily keep them above water. Their nostrils and small round ears can be closed off when they dive. Otters can also blow bubbles, which enables them to smell objects under water.

A common misconception is that all otters spend most of the time in the water. While it is true that all otters prefer either fish or aquatic invertebrates, some species also spend a considerable time on land and prey on rodents and reptiles. Some, like the North American river otter, can even climb trees.

(1) African Clawless Otter (Aonyx capensis)

Photo by Mark Paxton

The African clawless otter, also known as the Cape clawless otter or groot otter, is the second-largest freshwater species of otter, and the largest African otter species. They are closely related to the Congo clawless otter, which is regarded as the same species by some authorities, but the IUCN Otter Specialist Group and the IOSF view them as a separate species.

Appearance

They are chestnut in colour, and have distinctive white facial markings on the upper lips, the sides of the face, neck, throat, belly, and lower ears. Their front paws are basically hands; they’re very dexterous and can be used to carry objects. The fingers are clawless and have no webbing between them. The hind paws have partial webbing and rudimentary claws. Females can carry their young in their hands and walk bipedally when they do. Small objects can be held against the chest.(1)

Habitat

.

Behaviour

.

Reproduction

Mating usually occurs in December and gestation is about 2 months.(1) There are about 2 to 5 cubs in a litter and they stay with their mother for about a year. The father may also help with taking care of the cubs.(2)

Diet

Their diet consists mostly of crabs but they also eat frogs, lobsters, insects and fish. Their diet often depends on the area and season. During the winter they especially eat more fish instead of crabs and may occasionally hunt for waterfowl.(2)

Range map

Body length: 113–163 cm / 45–64 in (males)
Tail length: 46.5–51.5 cm / 18–20 in (males)
Weight: 10–36 kg / 22-80 lb (males)
Lifespan: Up to 12 years (wild), up to 15 years (captivity)
Range: South Africa to Ethiopia and across the continent to Senegal.
Conservation status: Near threatened
Recognised subspecies(3)

  1. A. c. capensis
  2. A. c. hindei
  3. A. c. meneleki
  4. A. c. congicus – Numbers 4 through 6 are not considered a subspecies by authorities that believe the Congo clawless otter is a separate species of A. capensis.
  5. A. c. microdon
  6. A. c. philippsi
References

  1. Larivière, Serge. “Aonyx capensis.” Mammalian species 2001.671 (2001): 1-6.
  2. Yoxon, Paul, and Grace M. Yoxon. Otters of the world. Whittles Publishing, 2014.
  3. Wozencraft, W.C. (2005). Aonyx capensis. In Wilson, D.E.; Reeder, D.M (eds.). Mammal Species of the World: A Taxonomic and Geographic Reference (3rd ed.). Johns Hopkins University Press. pp. 532–628

(2) Asian Small-Clawed Otter (Aonyx cinereus)

Photo by Moody F.

Asian small clawed otters are the smallest species of otter native to southwest Asia. They are the most common species of otter in zoos and in the exotic pet market, and can often be seen playing with stones using their dexterous hand-like paws.

Appearance

.

Habitat

Asian small clawed otters can live in a wide variety of fresh water environments, such as rivers, swamps and mangroves.

Behaviour

Asian small clawed otters live in family groups led by the alpha female. Much like wolves, the alpha couple are the only ones allowed to mate. Once they die, the other group members disperse and look for a mate to start a new family. Asian small clawed otters can interbreed with smooth coated otters. A whole population of hybrids has been discovered in Singapore.

Reproduction

.

Diet

They mainly eat crustaceans and other invertebrates, which they catch using their sensitive fingers.

Range map

Body length: 65.2–94 cm / 25.7–37 in (males)
Weight: 3–6 kg / 7–13 lb (males)
Lifespan: Unknown (wild), up to 16 years (captivity)
Range: Mangrove swamps and freshwater wetlands in south and southeast Asia.
Conservation status: Vulnerable
Recognised subspecies(1)

  1. A. c. cinerea
  2. A. c. concolor
  3. A. c. nirnai
References

  1. Wilson, Don E. & Reeder, DeeAnn M. (Editors) 2005. Aonyx cinerea in Mammal Species of the World. – A Taxonomic and Geographic Reference.

(3) Congo Clawless Otter (Aonyx congicus)

Photo by IOSF1957

The Congo clawless otter is one of the largest African otter species.(1)(2) They are sometimes considered a subspecies of the closely related African clawless otter, but the IUCN Otter Specialist Group and the IOSF treat them as a separate species.

Appearance

These otters are large and have very long tails. As their name implies, they lack claws on their front paws, which also lack webbing, though they do have rudimentary claws and partial webbing on their hind paws.(1)(2)

Habitat

They can live along rivers and streams but they live primarily in swamps.(1)(2)

Behaviour

These otters are the least aquatic of all otter species. They use their sensitive dexterous fingers to dig for worms in the mud and remove shells from prey.

Reproduction

.

Diet

They eat fish, snails, frogs and crabs.(1) They seem to be most active at night but have also been spotted during daytime.

Range map

Body length: 60–100 cm / 24–39 in (males)
Tail length: 40–71 cm / 16–28 in (males)
Weight: 14–34 kg / 31–75 lb (males)
Lifespan: Unknown (wild), unknown (captivity)
Range: The lower Congo basin, between southeastern Nigeria and western Uganda.
Conservation status: Near threatened
References

  1. Yoxon, Paul, and Grace M. Yoxon. Otters of the world. Whittles Publishing, 2014.
  2. Haltenorth, Theodor, Helmut Diller, and C. Smeenk. Elseviers gids van de Afrikaanse zoogdieren. Elsevier, 1979.

(4) Eurasian Otter (Lutra lutra)

Photo by Bernard Landgraf

The Eurasian otter, also known as the European otter, has the largest range of all otter species; spanning from Ireland to Japan.

Appearance

.

Habitat

They require areas with clean fresh water. While some live along the coast and swim in the sea, which is especially common in Scotland, they always need fresh water to clean their fur.

Behaviour

Most Eurasian otters are active during the night, but in Scotland they can also be seen during daytime. In general, Eurasian otters are territorial with males having larger territories than females. The male and female only come together for mating, which can happen any time of the year. They play with each other in the water before they mate. The female gives birth in a hidden holt, which is usually only accessible through an entrance under water. The cubs stay inside with their mother until they are big enough to learn to swim. Temporary holts where otters rest are generally simpler and less well hidden than birth holts.

Reproduction

.

Diet

Their favourite food is fish, especially eel and trout, but during the winter they have to rely more on frogs, insects, birds and small mammals. They also aren’t afraid to enter a hole in the ice to catch subglacial fish.

Range map

Body length: 60–90 cm / 24–35 in (males), 59–70 cm / 22–28 in (females)
Weight: 7–12 kg / 15–26 lb (males), 3–8 kg / 7–17 lb (females)
Range: The waterways and coasts of Europe, many parts of Asia, and parts of northern Africa.
Lifespan: Up to 4 years (wild), up to 22 years (captivity)
Conservation status: Near threatened
Recognised subspecies(1)

  1. L. l. angustifrons
  2. L. l. aurobrunneus
  3. L. l. barang
  4. L. l. chinensis
  5. L. l. hainana
  6. L. l. kutab
  7. L. l. lutra
  8. L. l. meridionalis
  9. L. l. monticolus
  10. L. l. nair
  11. L. l. seistanica
References

  1. Wilson, Don E. & Reeder, DeeAnn M. (Editors) 2005. Lutra lutra in Mammal Species of the World. – A Taxonomic and Geographic Reference.

(5) Giant Otter (Pteronura brasiliensis)

Photo by Steve Wilson

Giant otters are native to the inland areas of northern South America.

Appearance

As their name implies, they are huge! These human-sized otters are not only the longest, otters but also the longest mustelids. With their huge size they are top predators of the Amazon, even capable of killing caimans; though with difficulty.

Giant otters are some of the oddest looking otters, having unusually flat tails that are almost wing-like in shape. Like the hairy nosed otters, giant otters have noses that are almost entirely covered with hair. They also have some of the most well developed webbing between their digits, which makes them excellent swimmers. One of their most striking features is their throat spots, which form a unique pattern in each individual like a finger print and can be used to recognise each other.

Habitat

.

Behaviour

Giant otters live in large family groups of up to about 10 individuals. When the older otters go hunting, the younger adults take care of the cubs. Cubs learn to hunt when they are weaned at the age of 9 months. They take about 2 years to mature.

They are the most social and noisiest of all otter species. They are capable of producing many different sounds.

Reproduction

.

Diet

Their favourite prey are fish such as catfish and piranhas.

Range map

Body length: 1.5–1.8 m / 5–6 ft (males), 1.5–1.7 m / 5–5.5 ft (females)
Weight: 23–32 kg / 51–70 lb (males), 20–29 kg / 44–64 lb (females)
Lifespan: Up to 8 years (wild), up to 17 years (captivity)
Range: Northern inland areas of South America.
Conservation status: Endangered
Recognised subspecies(1)

  1. P. b. brasiliensis
  2. P. b. paraguensis
References

  1. Wilson, Don E. & Reeder, DeeAnn M. (Editors) 2005. Pteronura brasiliensis in Mammal Species of the World. – A Taxonomic and Geographic Reference.

(6) Hairy-Nosed Otter (Lutra sumatrana)

Photo by Wildlife Alliance

Hairy nosed otters are the rarest of all otter species. They were once thought to be extinct until a living otter was spotted again in 2000, and they remain elusive and mysterious. As their name implies, their noses are almost entirely covered with hair. Hairy nosed otters can live alone or in groups of up to six individuals.

Appearance

.

Habitat

They live in a variety of aquatic environments, such as flooded forests, forest streams and swamps, but primarily in canals.

Behaviour

They can be active both day and night but seem to be the most active during the evening.Breeding periods vary by region. In Vietnam it’s mainly in November and December and in Cambodia it can vary from November to March. Gestation is thought to be about 9 weeks.

Reproduction

.

Diet

They eat crustaceans, fish, water snakes, birds and amphibians.

Threats

They are threatened by hunting and habitat destruction. Fishermen often don’t like the otters since they can take fish out of their nets. Hairy nosed otters are very sensitive to water quality which makes it a challenge to keep them in captivity.

Range map

Body length: 57.5–82.6 cm / 22.6–32.5 in (males)
Tail length: 3550.9 cm / 13.8–20 in (males)
Weight: 5–8 kg / 11–18 lb (males)
Lifespan: Unknown (wild), unknown (captivity)
Range: Southeast Asia.
Conservation status: Endangered

(7) Marine Otter (Lontra felina)

Photo by Sakura1994

The marine otter is a rare and poorly known South American mammal. The scientific name means “otter cat”, and in Spanish, the marine otter is also often referred to as gato marino: “marine cat”.

– Source from Wikipedia. The information above needs to be edited with our own words.

Appearance

.

Habitat

.

Behaviour

.

Reproduction

.

Diet

Range map

Body length: 87–115 cm / 34–45 in (males)
Tail length: 30–36 cm / 12–14 in (males)
Weight: 3–6 kg / 6.6–13 lb (males)
Range: From the coast along southwestern South America to southern Argentina.
Lifespan: Unknown (wild), not unknown (captivity)
Conservation status: Endangered
References

(8) Neotropical Otter (Lontra longicaudis)

Photo by Carla Antonini

The neotropical otter or neotropical river otter is an otter species found in Central America, South America and the island of Trinidad. They are physically similar to the northern and southern river otter, which occur directly north and south of this species’ range.

– Source from Wikipedia. The information above needs to be edited with our own words.

Appearance

.

Habitat

.

Behaviour

.

Reproduction

.

Diet

Range map

Body length: 36–66 cm / 14–26 in (males)
Tail length: 37–84 cm / 15–33 in (males)
Weight: 5–15 kg / 11–33 lb (males)
Lifespan: Up to 11 years (wild), up to 15 years (captivity)
Range: Central America, South America and the island of Trinidad.
Conservation status: Near threatened
Recognised subspecies(1)

  1. L. l. annectens
  2. L. l. enudris
  3. L. l. longicaudis
References

  1. Wilson, Don E. & Reeder, DeeAnn M. (Editors) 2005. Lontra longicaudis in Mammal Species of the World. – A Taxonomic and Geographic Reference.

(9) North American River Otter (Lontra canadensis)

Photo by Moody F.

The North American river otter, also known as the northern river otter or the common otter, is native throughout the inland waterways and coastal areas of North America.

Appearance

North American river otters are relatively large otters and have large noses, long thick necks and thick tails.(1) Some older otters develop black spots on their muzzles, but this is far from universal.(2)

Habitat

.

Behaviour

North American river otters can live alone but also in groups.(1) Strength in numbers can especially be useful in areas with a lot of enemies such as coyotes, since a lone otter is a relatively easy target, but a group is quite capable of fending off predators.(3) Adult male otters often form groups of independent hunters without any specific dominant individual.(1)(2)

Mating season is from the end of winter to the beginning of spring. The mother is ready to mate again after her cubs are born, but due to delayed implantation, she won’t give birth again until her current litter is a year old and ready to become independent.(1)(3)

Reproduction

.

Diet

They prefer to eat fish, especially perch, suckers and catfish, but they also consume amphibians, reptiles and crustaceans. One time an otter was even observed to eat a python.(1)

Range map

Body length: 66–107 cm / 26–42 in (males)
Tail length: 30–45 cm / 12–51 in (males)
Weight: 5–14 kg / 11–31 lb (males), 8.3 kg / 18 lb (females)
Lifespan: Up to 9 years (wild), up to 21 years (captivity)
Range: Throughout North America
Conservation status: Least concern
Recognised subspecies(4)

  1. L. c. canadensis
  2. L. c. kodiacensis
  3. L. c. lataxina
  4. L. c. mira
  5. L. c. pacifica
  6. L. c. periclyzomae
  7. L. c. sonora
References

  1. Yoxon, Paul, and Grace M. Yoxon. Otters of the world. Whittles Publishing, 2014.
  2. SHANNON, J. SCOTT. “Identifying Individual Otters”
  3. The Otters of Yellowstone. Narrated by Tom Baker. BBC’s Natural World, 1997.
  4. Wilson, Don E. & Reeder, DeeAnn M. (Editors) 2005. Lontra canadensis in Mammal Species of the World. – A Taxonomic and Geographic Reference.

(10) Sea Otter (Enhydra lutris)

Photo by Moody F.

Sea otters are found along the coastal waters of east Russia, Alaska, British Columbia, Washington, and California. They are the heaviest and considered the most evolutionarily divergent species of all Mustelidae.

Appearance

Sea otters are heavy set animals with short skulls and tails compared to other otters. Their bodies are dark, and they have light colored heads. Their back legs have evolved into flippers and are not terribly useful for walking on land.

Habitat

Being fully adapted to a marine lifestyle, they can live their entire lives in the sea and only come on land whenever they feel like it.

Behaviour

While most marine mammals keep themselves warm with a layer of blubber, sea otters instead have thick fur, which is the densest fur of the entire animal kingdom. They frequently groom their fur and blow air into it in order to maintain its insulating properties.

A unique characteristic of the sea otter is their ability to use tools. They can use stones to smash shellfish. An anvil stone is laid on the stomach and the shellfish is held in the paws and smashed against the stone until it cracks. Stones can be stored in special pouches in the arm pits. Most sea otters have a favourite stone that they keep until it’s worn out or broken. Abalones that are attached to rock walls may also be removed by smashing them with a sharp stone.

Another important part of their toolbox is kelp, which they use as an anchor. They wrap themselves and their pups in kelp in order not to drift off. They can even store live prey by wrapping it in kelp.

Reproduction

.

Diet

Sea otters eat various marine invertebrates, but also fish and may even occasionally catch a bird. They are especially good at controlling sea urchin populations, which has earned them the title “keystone species”. Areas where sea otters were hunted to extinction experienced a dramatic rise in sea urchin populations which in turn meant a dramatic decrease in kelp. On the other hand, areas where sea otters thrive have intact kelp forests, which provide shelter for various fish species.

Conflicts with fisheries

Range map

Body length: 119–149 cm / 3.9–4.9 ft (males), 101–140 cm / 3.3–4.6 ft (females)
Weight: 23–45 kg / 59–100 lb (males), 14–27 kg / 30–60 lb (females)
Lifespan: Up to 23 years (wild), up to 27 years (captivity)
Range: Coastal waters of east Russia, Alaska, British Columbia, Washington, and California. Some reports of recolonization in Mexico and Japan.
Conservation status: Endangered
Recognised subspecies(1)

  1. E. l. kenyoni
  2. E. l. lutris
  3. E. l. nereis
References

  1. Wilson, Don E. & Reeder, DeeAnn M. (Editors) 2005. Enhydra lutris in Mammal Species of the World. – A Taxonomic and Geographic Reference.

(11) Smooth-Coated Otter (Lutrogale perspicillata)

Photo by Mike Prince  |  Original

Smooth coated otters are found in most of the Indian subcontinent and southeast Asia. They are closely related to Asian small clawed otters and can interbreed with them, though this seldom occurs.(1) A hybrid population has been observed in Singapore.

Appearance

Unlike their smaller relatives, smooth coated otters have large paws.(1)(2) The tracks are often more than 8 cm (3 in) wide.(1) The webbing between their digits are well developed, making them excellent swimmers. They have flattened tails(1) and, as their name suggests, they have smooth velvety fur.(2)

Habitat

.

Behaviour

Smooth coated otters are primarily diurnal and can live in groups of up to 11 individuals, although most of them live alone or in pairs.(1) Loud screaming wails are used to warn their group members of predators such as crocodiles and tigers.(1)(2)

Reproduction

.

Diet

Their favourite food is fish, in particular riverine catfish and false four-eyed fish,(2) but they also like to eat crabs, frogs, rats, insects and snakes.(1)(2)

Use by fishermen

There is a tradition in East Asia in which fishermen use otters to catch fish.(2) This practice is in decline and now mostly restricted to Bangladesh. Three otters are typically used: two adults and one young otter in training. During the day the young otter is trained by encouraging it to chase a fish. The real fishing is done by night time. The otters chase fish into nets and also have the opportunity to catch their own fish.(2)

The Bishan family

The Bishan otter family is a family of smooth coated otters in Singapore that gained local and international fame. They were first spotted in the Bishan-Ang Mo Kio Park in 2014 and in 2015 they moved to Marina Bay where they chased out the Marina otter family that had been living there.

Range map

Body length: 59–64 cm / 23–25 in (males)
Tail length: 37–43 cm / 15–17 in (males),
Weight: 7–11 kg / 15–24 lb (males)
Range: Most of the Indian subcontinent and Southeast Asia, with a disjunct population in Iraq.
Lifespan: Up to 10 years (wild), up to 20 years (captivity)
Conservation status: Vulnerable
Recognised subspecies(3)

  1. L. p. perspicillata
  2. L. p. sindica
References

  1. Ten Hwang, Yeen, and Serge Larivière. “Lutrogale perspicillata.” Mammalian Species 2005.786 (2005): 1-4.
  2. Yoxon, Paul, and Grace M. Yoxon. Otters of the world. Whittles Publishing, 2014.
  3. Wilson, Don E. & Reeder, DeeAnn M. (Editors) 2005. Lutrogale perspicillata in Mammal Species of the World. – A Taxonomic and Geographic Reference.

(12) Southern River Otter (Lontra provocax)

Photo by Paul Tavares

The southern river otter lives in Chile and Argentina. Although called a “river otter”, they inhabit both marine and freshwater environments. They sometimes are considered a subspecies of Lontra canadensis.

– Source from Wikipedia. The information above needs to be edited with our own words.

Appearance

.

Habitat

.

Behaviour

.

Reproduction

.

Diet

Range map

Body length: 65–71 cm / 25.5–28 in (males)
Tail length: 35–45 cm / 14–18 in (males)
Weight: 5–9 kg / 11–20 lb (males)
Range: Chile and Argentina.
Lifespan: Up to 10 years (wild), unknown (captivity)
Conservation status: Endangered
References

(13) Spotted-Necked Otter (Hydrictis maculicollis)

Photo by derekkeats | Original

Spotted-necked otters are the smallest otters of Africa.(1) They are locally known as “water hyenas”.(1) Like giant otters, they have unique patterns of spots on their necks, which allows one to distinguish individuals.(1)

Appearance

They are slender otters with dark brown fur. As their name implies they typically have light spots on their throat, lips and chest. They also have well developed webbing and claws, suitable for their aquatic lifestyle.(1)

Habitat

Spotted-necked otters primarily live in clear rivers and lakes. They can live in mountain streams as high as 2500 metres.(1)

Behaviour

They are primarily diurnal animals and hunt for fish by sight.(2) They are particularly active during mornings and late afternoons,(2) but tend to be more nocturnal in South Africa.(1) Spotted necked otters are more aquatic than other African otter species(2) and never stray far from the water. They are not territorial and often form same-sex groups.(1)

Reproduction

Spotted-necked otters can mate any time of the year. The females give birth to usually two or three cubs who stay with her for at least a year.(1)

Diet

They are primarily fish eaters, but also eat frogs, crustaceans, snails and insect larvae. They may also occasionally catch birds.(2)

Range map

Body length: 71–76 cm / 28–30 in (males), 57–61 cm / 22–24 in (females)
Tail length: 39–44 cm / 15–17 in (males),
Weight: 5.7–6.5 kg / 13–14 lb (males), 3–4.7 kg / 6.6–10.4 lb (females)
Range: Sub-Saharan Africa.
Lifespan: Up to 8 years (wild), up to 14 years (captivity)
Conservation status: Near Threatened
References

  1. Yoxon, Paul, and Grace M. Yoxon. Otters of the world. Whittles Publishing, 2014.
  2. Apps, Peter, ed. Smithers’ mammals of southern Africa: a field guide. Southern Book Pub of South Africa, 1996.

American Mink | Badgers | Ferret-Badgers | Fisher | Grisons | Martens | Otters | PolecatsTayra | Weasels | Wolverine