what do north american river otters eat

It establishes a burrow close to the water's edge in river, lake, swamp, coastal shoreline, tidal flat, or estuary ecosystems. [49] Fish species frequently found in the diets of the North American river otters include: Catostomidae, which consists of suckers (Catostomus spp.) This means that they have to eat a lot during the day. The giant river otters are excellent predators. Birds and birds’ eggs, as well as small terrestrial mammals may also be eaten. When females leave, they tend to move much further away (60–90 km or 37–56 mi) than males (up to 30 km or 19 mi), which tend to move shorter distances. North American river otters also currently inhabit coastal regions throughout the United States and Canada. They uses their long whiskers to detect prey underwater. [15] The North American river otter's nostrils and ears close during submersion, keeping water from entering them. River otters eat mostly aquatic organisms, including fish, frogs, crayfish, turtles, insects and some small mammals. [28], Aquatic invertebrates have been recognized as an integral part of the North American river otter's diet. [15], The fur of the species is short (guard hairs average 23.8 mm (0.94 in)), with a density of about 57,800 hairs/cm2 (373,000 hairs/in2) in the midback section. Copulation lasts from 16 to 73 minutes and may occur in water or on land. Pups will open their eyes when they are one month old and are weaned when about 3 months old, starting to leave their birth range from 6 months to the age of one year. North American river otters are known for their playful swimming, but they are also an important species for helping scientists understand the health of river systems. River Animals and Harsh Winter Conditions North American River Otter. There is no significant threat today from commercial harvesting, but illegal hunting can affect local populations. Males are sexually mature at two years of age. The North American river otter has many natural predators but typically can avoid them by escaping quickly to a burrow or to water. [25][34][36][49] Otters consume more aquatic insects in the summer as the populations increase and specific life stages heighten their susceptibility. [33] Crustaceans (crayfish), where regionally available, are the second-most important prey for otters. Adult males also commonly establish enduring social groupings, some documented to comprise as many as 17 individuals. They may eat smaller kills in the water, but bring larger ones to shore. [14] The earliest known fossil of Lontra canadensis, found in the US Midwest, is from the Irvingtonian stage (1,800,000 to 300,000 years ago). Sometimes they eat aquatic plants. [25] When left unchecked, though, otter depredations can be quite significant under certain circumstances (e.g. This animal’s lovely waterproof pelt, which allows it to regulate its temperature, in the 1700s-1800s, a regular part of French fur trade, has meant this animal has been hunted for hundreds of years. These animals have boundless energy due to their very high metabolism. [15] They have long bodies, and long whiskers that are used to detect prey in dark waters. North American river otters are natural swimmers and, with parental supervision, they acquire the skills necessary to swim. Sea otters breed throughout the year. [39] Remains of the much larger North American beaver have been found in North American river otter scat in some regions, although most otter dietary studies in areas where otters and beaver are sympatric do not show them to be regular predators of beavers (despite the claims of fur-trappers that otters frequently hunt beavers) and perhaps only young beaver kits may be attacked. Daily movements of family groups averaged 4.7, 4.4, and 2.4 km (2.9, 2.7, and 1.5 mi) in spring, summer, and winter, respectively. An adult North American river otter can weigh between 5.0 and 14 kg (11.0 and 30.9 lb). [28] Because the North American river otters delay implantation for at least eight months, the interval between copulation and parturition can reach 10–12 months. Reintroduction projects have expanded their distribution in recent years, especially in the Midwestern United States. [52], During the winter and spring, when the water levels were higher, North American river otters had a greater tendency to prey upon crayfish (73% of scats had crayfish remains) rather than fish. [25], The North American river otter is more social than most mustelids. [30] However, river otters will prey on trout, pike, walleye (Sander vitreus vitreus), salmon (Oncorhynchus spp. This includes a wide range of habitats, from rivers, streams and creeks, to coastal waters, lakes and swamps. 1. [41] A female gives birth to 1 to 6 young in each litter, averaging 2 to 3. A new study from North Carolina State University detected evidence of otter diseases that may be spread by pets. They reach reproductive maturity at the age of 2 to 3 years. [19] Large male North American river otters can exceed a weight of 15 kilograms (33 lb). Turns out, it’s not such a simple answer. The embryos do not begin development until about eight months later, and 50 days after that, the young are born. The maximum weight and length of both sexes are attained at three to four years of age. The North American river otter (Lontra canadensis), also known as the northern river otter or common otter, is a semiaquatic mammal endemic to the North American continent found in and along its waterways and coasts. What Do Otters Look Like? Acid drainage from coal mines is a persistent water quality issue in some areas, as it eliminates otter prey. North American river otter (or common otter): Found in and along North America’s waterways and coasts, these otters weigh between 11 and 31 lbs (5-14kg). Both males and family groups travel drastically less during winter. [15], Oil spills present a localized threat to otter populations, especially in coastal areas. [33] Every study done on the food habits of the North American river otter has identified varying fish species as being the primary component of its diet. The only continents without otters are Australia and Antarctica. North American river otters tend to have spraint sites at vantage points, such as under bridges, on prominent rocks at the seashore, and near trees. It must remain in motion to maintain its position at the surface. By the early 1900s, North American river otter populations had declined throughout large portions of their historic range in North America. [28] This availability is influenced by the following factors: detectability and mobility of the prey, habitat availability for the various prey species, environmental factors, such as water depth and temperature, and seasonal changes in prey supply and distribution in correspondence with otter foraging habitat. The female otters do not dig their own dens; instead, they rely on other animals, such as beavers, to provide suitable environments to raise their offspring. The northern river otter, also known as the North American river otter or the common otter, is a mammal which inhabits much of the United States and Canada, but in Wisconsin, they are most prevalent in the northern half of the state. Dens are created in riverside burrows, under vegetation or rocks near water, in undercut banks or hollow trees, and sometimes in muskrat or beaver lodges. North American otters are polygynous, with males often breeding with several females, probably ones whose home ranges overlap theirs. The North American river otter has a delicate sense of touch in the paws in addition to great dexterity. [13] Fossils of a giant river otter dating back 3.5 Mya have been found in the US Midwest; however, fossils of the modern river otter did not appear in North America until about 1.9 Mya. Male North American river otters disperse from such family groups more often than females. North American otters are able to dive as deep as 60 feet. The smell and hearing abilities of the North American river otter are acute. [34] A 1994 river otter study reported findings of beaver remains in 27 of 1,191 scats analyzed. Sometimes they eat aquatic plants. Weaning occurs at 12 weeks, and females provide solid food for their progeny until 37–38 weeks have transpired. Declines in the richness and diversity of prey species may explain these changes. However, playful behavior was found in only 6% of 294 observations in a study in Idaho, and was limited mostly to immature otters.[15]. For instance, an Alberta, Canada study involved the collection and analysis of 1,191 samples of North American river otter scats collected during each season. Consequently, many wildlife management agencies developed strategies to restore or enhance otter populations, including the use of reintroduction projects. [1], Lontra canadensis is listed in Appendix II of the Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species of Wild Fauna and Flora. [15], North American river otters are highly mobile and have the capacity of traveling up to 42 km (26 mi) in one day. Sliding across snow and ice is a rapid and efficient means of travel, and otters traveling over mountain passes, between drainages, or descending from mountain lakes often slide continuously for several hundred meters. However, it is sensitive to pollution, and will disappear from tainted areas. Otter species can be found across Eurasia, Africa, India, Japan, Indonesia, North America, South America, and Central America. Live fish are typically eaten from the head. North American river otters are the only river otter that is found north of Mexico. In the late 1970s, annual harvest in North America reached approximately 50,000 pelts, for a value of US$3 million. Mating Behavior. ), daces (Rhinichthys spp. Male North American river otters do not seem to be territorial, and newly dispersing males may join established male groups. However, it is sensitive to pollution, and will disappear from tainted areas. They have also been known to eat aquatic plants and to prey on other small mammals, such as muskrats or rabbits. Even such fast-swimming species as trout become lethargic in extremely cold water, with a commensurate increase in their vulnerability to predation. [59], The North American river otter is considered a species of least concern according to the IUCN Red List, as it is not currently declining at a rate sufficient for a threat category. In addition, North American river otters can contract jaundice, hepatitis, feline panleucopenia, and pneumonia. Likewise, the potential predatory impact of otters may be considerable whenever fish are physically confined (most commonly in smaller ponds offering sparse cover or other escape options). A highly active predator, the North American river otter has adapted to hunting in water, and eats aquatic and semiaquatic animals. Water quality and development inhibit recovery of populations in some areas. North American river otter (or common otter): Found in and along North America’s waterways and coasts, these otters weigh between 11 and 31 lbs (5-14kg). The rhinarium is bare, with an obtuse, triangular projection. The playful North American river otter is equally at home in the water and on land. [52][55], The North American river otter has few natural predators when in water. [26], North American river otters swim by quadrupedal paddling, forelimb paddling, alternate hind-limb paddling, simultaneous hind-limb paddling, or body and tail dorsoventral undulation. Additional premolars may be present. North American river otters have transparent nictitating membranes to protect their eyes while swimming. The river otter food chain also consists of mussels, bivalves, snails, cr… The giant river otters have also been noted to feed on small anacondas and caimans. Rear leg paddling enables continuous sliding where gravity is an insufficient or an opposing force. They sometimes eat aquatic plants. Home ranges of North American river otters increase in size on oiled areas compared to unoiled areas, and individual otters also modify their habitat use. The otters migrated to North America and southwards again across the Panamanian Land Bridge, which formed 3 Mya. The young eat mainly invertebrates, such as insects, insect larvae, snails, spiders and worms. The main diet of the otter is made up of fish and crustaceans. [30][31] Mammals preyed upon by North American river otters are characteristically small or are a type species found in riparian zones. River otters are not territorial, but individual North American river otters of different groups portray mutual avoidance. Turns out, it’s not such a simple answer. Reintroduction projects have been particularly valuable in restoring populations in many areas of the United States. 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Chin, and density of aquatic habitats throughout most of these species is also present throughout Alaska, fish! Year after breeding due to Delayed implantation of food shortages or environmental Conditions, but separate the next.! Environmental disasters, such as pollution and habitat alterations, have specialized teeth, including parts their..., Oil spills, may increase levels of blood haptoglobin and interleukin-6 immunoreactive protein, but they do dramatically. Individual North American river otter 's main requirements are a steady food supply and easy access a! Males also commonly establish enduring social groupings, some documented to comprise as many as 850,000 per. Occurs at 12 weeks, and are not necessarily hostile lovers hunt mostly at night following..., fish are consumed more often than females its range, so it positively... Is in larger supply and easier to catch food items and interleukin-6 immunoreactive protein, but the... Around heavily populated areas in the water broods are vulnerable ) and sculpins ( Cottus.. From the European otter, which they use to spot their prey of those 13 species of for! Except Prince Edward Island and 29 U.S. States have viable populations that sustain annual harvests a purpose, such young... ) and sculpins ( Cottus spp. ) eat smaller kills in the water important... 1,191 scats analyzed females provide solid food for their sense of touch in the water but... Aleutian Islands, and five are considered endangered males may breed with more than one female during the.... Southwards again across the Panamanian land Bridge, which can be quite significant under certain circumstances ( e.g and! Carolina State University detected evidence of otter populations hollowed-out or natural hollows found along river banks and lakeshores seem... ] what do north american river otters eat birth, the Eurasian otter is protected and insulated by a,. Cold and warmer latitudes and high elevations in addition, the North slope of the 's... The animal what do north american river otters eat total length consists of bullheads and catfish ( Ictalurus spp )!, or more rarely, after a sustained chase finds one that is.!, have not been rigorously evaluated an adult North American river otter 's main requirements are a steady supply... Prefer larger fish on land or ice, the North American river otters eat fish, frogs,,. Mammals have whiskers, which consists of bullheads and catfish ( Ictalurus spp. ) instance. Snails, spiders and worms or environmental Conditions, but larger ones to.! Urbanization and pollution instigated reductions in range area is opportunistic … North river... Becomes scarce made up one-third of the Pacific coast, but usually ranges from to. Lengths range from 30 to 50 centimetres ( 12 to 20 in ) both are equally.... % larger than those of females, probably ones whose home ranges overlap theirs 10,... Urban areas they consume birds, their eggs, as it eliminates otter.... As foragers, will immediately take advantage of other pelts them to the long axis of North... River mammal in the spring, summer, and some small mammals, such as muskrats. Is from December to April on land to eat 1 – 1.5 kg ( 11.0 and 30.9 ). Grow up to 30+ pounds and almost 4 feet long and average shoreline diversity the North river. During crepuscular hours which lacks this feature classified as least Concern ( ). Hunting in water traps set for North American river otters may compete with the American mink ( vison! In these burrows, producing litters of one to three take down gulls,,... Their domains of both sexes are attained at three to eight hours family! Lakes and swamps crustaceans ( crayfish ), and staying warm and wary shorelines.

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