The North American river otter is a member of the weasel family, Mustelidae, along with minks and badgers.
Habitat & Range
River otters live in estuaries, fresh water lakes, streams, rivers and coastal areas. As long as there is unpolluted water and an adequate supply of food nearby, they can be found in prairie, tundra and high mountain ecosystems.
North American river otters are rare throughout most of their former range. They are still found in Alaska and most of Canada, in the Pacific Northwest, the Great Lakes states and along the Atlantic Coast and Gulf of Mexico. Now that rivers and streams have been cleaned up, several states, including Colorado, are reintroducing otters to their former habitat.
North American River Otter
Otters play more than most wild animals. They have been observed wrestling, chasing other otters, diving for rocks and clamshells, swimming with pebbles or other small objects balanced on their noses, toying with live prey and sliding down mud banks or snow banks. “Play” activities actually serve a purpose – they are used to strengthen social bonds, practice hunting techniques and scent-mark territories. Additionally, sliding down a bank is a fast, energy conserving way to cover a distance quickly!
IUCN Status: Least Concern
River otter numbers declined due to habitat loss, water pollution, pesticide use, trapping for their luxurious fur and hunting by humans who thought otters were competing with commercial or sport fishing. Because of nationwide efforts to clean up pollution in rivers, streams and lakes, several states, including Colorado, have been able to reintroduce river otters to their former habitat.
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