Mountain Press Publishing, Missoula, Montana. Distinctive Characteristics About three to four feet long from nose to tail, the northern river otter has sleek, dark brown, waterproof fur, short legs, and a long, thick, tapered tail. Its throat and belly are golden or silvery brown. Young river otters prove to be the most susceptible to predators. They are highly adaptable animals so as long as they have access to enough food and water they can thrive. The river otter food web maintains great biodiversity. The fat layer underneath their skin protects them from cold temperatures. They use their long, agile bodies to swim and hunt for many prey species such as fish, amphibians, crustaceans and other organisms. River otters have a commensal relationship with beavers as dams provide year-round open water and bank dens. North American river otters, also called Canadian otters, have long, muscular, streamlined bodies with short legs and fully webbed feet bearing non-retractable claws. North Fork, Whetstone River. The Northern River Otter is found both in Canada and the United States. River otters play the role of apex predators, so the river otter food web represents great importance to many watersheds. Generally solitary, river otters do engage in play when they meet. Their toes are webbed, they have short legs and they boast a tapered tail ranging up to 15 inches long. The main locations are along the Rio Grande River and the Colorado River. It has a wide, rounded head with small ears and long, white whiskers. Sighting one can be an exciting occasion for boaters, fishermen and other outdoor enthusiasts because of the creature’s secretive nature and relative rarity in some waters. Mammals of Montana. Dianne features science as well as writing topics on her website, jdiannedotson.com. These are river otters. The few natural river otter predators include bears, coyotes, bobcats, cougars and dogs. 2012. Abundant food resources may counterbalance minor structrual deficiencies in a habitat. Their dense, short under-fur is overlain by darker, coarse guard hairs that help repel wa… Thornton, K.P. River otters possess long, muscular bodies suited to their life on both land and in water. Without river otters, entire watershed food webs would suffer. River otters may slide, chase and cavort, especially when it is time to mate. Habitat relationships of landbirds in the Northern Region, USDA Forest Service, Rocky Mountain Research Station RMRS-GTR-32. A lifelong writer, Dianne is also a content manager and science fiction & fantasy novelist. Canadian Journal of Zoology: Seasonal Diet of the Northern River Otter (Lontra Canadensis): What Drives Prey Selection? I, too, assumed that sea + otter = sea otter. They have short legs, webbed feet for faster swimming, and a long, narrow body and flattened head for streamlined movement in the water. The male reproductive system contains a penis, testes, scrotum and more while the female reproductive system contains a vagina, ovaries, etc. Breeding dates not known for Montana, but probably occurs in early Spring. North American River Otter The playful North American river otter is equally at home in the water and on land. Observations in Montana Natural Heritage Program Database. 289 p. Dobkin, D. S.  1992. The North American river otter is a member of the mustelid or weasel family that can be easily identified by a stout body, short legs, noticeably tapered tail and dense, short, glossy fur. and J.S. 1998, Hutto and Young 1999, Maxell 2000, Foresman 2012, Adams 2003, and Werner et al. The European species (Lutra lutra) was once used to catch fish for the table. He’s trying to climb up the pipe!” It was then that the explainer in me wanted to jump in and say, actually, no. River otters are smaller than their cousins, the sea otters. Species: Lontra canadensis No children of Northern River Otter (Lontra canadensis) found. Dens and lodges are used by river otters as rest and natal sites. River otter habitat. After an absence of more than a century, its … Foresman, K.R. Publication No. Order of importance varies: sunfish, suckers, sculpin, trout, invertebrates, and frogs. The river otter is most common in the tidewater and major river basins of the coastal plain (Lee et al. Maxell, P. Hendricks, and D. Flath. View in other NatureServe Network Field Guides, It seems your browser doesn't support HTML5 audio. The long guard hairs remain pliable in very cold weather (Ulrich 1986), and the dense underfur traps air to insulate it in water. It plays by itself, or it slides and plays in the water with others in its family. Marsh near Punished Woman's Lake. 1982). It can swim and maneuver better than many fish, and swims with only the top of its head out of the water. Look for this PDF icon at the top of each page as you search and browse. McLaughlin, C.M. 2000. Their small heads widen to long necks and shoulders, and they have flattened, well-muscled tails. Otters have sharp claws on their feet to catch prey. River otters are apex predators in various watershed environments. Currently, many populations along the coastal United States and Canada are stable or increasing, but this species is rare or extirpated throughout much of the Midwestern United States. Animals and easily domesticated search and browse and stay underwater for some minutes ( Zeveloff and Collett 1988.! 30.9 lb ) their swimming ability otters consume both aquatic animal and plant life, with some.. Year-Round open water and bank dens otters are the areas that border stream, rivers,,... Short, muscular bodies suited to their life on both land and in water only in submersion sets habitat... Short legs and they boast a tapered tail ranging up to about 10 in! 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