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River Otter

Otters new exhibit
When finished in the spring of 2014, the Cove Forest will feature a new otter exhibit with three times the otters, three times the space for otters and three times the viewing space for YOU the guest.

You’re going to love our NEW otter exhibit. Instead of just two otters, we’re going to have six. They will come out in various groups throughout the day to make sure everyone gets to see otters at play. The exhibit will have more room for the otters and more room for you to see them face-to-face. It will also have several levels of land for the otters to explore and a long pool – somewhat like our penguin exhibit – that will allow you to watch them swimming. And there will be two waterfalls in the new exhibit.
Lontra canadensis

ON EXHIBIT:  Currently off exhibit while under construction

American River Otters

Otters use special flaps to close off their nostrils and ears when underwater. They may remain submerged for up to eight minutes on one breath. Otters are well-designed for swimming and living in cold mountain streams. A member of the weasel family, it has an elongated body, short legs, webbed feet and a long stout tail. Out of the water it walks with an awkward humpbacked gait, sometimes belly-sliding down muddy or snow-covered hills. On the surface of the water it dog paddles, but underwater the otter swims with its entire body, pushing with its webbed feet and steering with its long tail. Its thick, sleek coat, which keeps it dry and warm, is made up of two types of hair. The longer outer hairs, called guard hairs, are water repellent. River otters make use of dens created by other animals, including beavers, and always give birth to their young between February and April. 

North American river otters are protected under CITES (Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species of Wild Fauna and Flora) Appendix II. Due to reintroduction and other conservation programs, populations have grown or become re-established in areas of their natural range.

Fan Photo

Photo by Bren Bowerman

About This Animal

SIZE:  Length 35-51.2 inches; weight 11-31 lbs 

RANGE: Throughout Canada and United States except areas in Southwest. 

HABITAT: Fresh water and marine habitats such as rivers, lakes, marshes, swamps and estuaries in cold and warm environments and at a variety of elevations.

DIET: Crayfish, mollusks, amphibians, reptiles and fish as well as some terrestrial organisms such as small mammals, birds, eggs and, occasionally, some aquatic plants.

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