The otter is a semi-aquatic predatory mammal from the Mustelidae family that has several varieties. Otters are a widespread species – the common otter that lives throughout Eurasia. Other otter species live in Africa, the Americas, and Southeast Asia.
Otters are unique, cute and playful creatures with the characteristic appearance of animals that spend a lot of time in the water. In addition, they are also intelligent animals that can be trained to perform various tricks. These animals have some unique abilities. Despite their small size, otters are able to withstand young alligators, and often come out victorious in such fights.
Otters have a long, slender body and relatively short limbs. Their most striking anatomical features are the powerful webbed feet used for swimming and their seal-like ability to hold their breath underwater. Most have sharp claws on their feet, and all but the sea otter have long, muscular tails. The 13 species range in adult size from 0.6 to 1.8 m (2.0 to 5.9 ft) in length and 1 to 45 kg (2.2 to 99.2 lb) in weight. The small-clawed Asian otter is the smallest species of otter, while the giant otter and sea otter are the largest. They have a very soft insulated undercoat that is protected by an outer layer of long guard hair. This traps a layer of air that keeps them dry, warm and floating underwater.
Some species of otters live in cold waters and have a high metabolic rate that helps them keep warm. European otters should eat 15% of their weight every day, and sea otters 20 to 25%, depending on the temperature. In 10 ° C (50 ° F) water, the otter needs to catch 100 grams (3.5 ounces) of fish per hour to survive. Most species hunt for three to five hours each day, while nursing mothers hunt for up to eight hours each day.
Otters of all species have the same color – brown or dark brown. Their fur is short but thick, which makes it very valuable. In the spring and summer, the otter begins to molt. Otters from among those who care for their fur, comb it, clean it. If they do not do this, the coat will become dirty and no longer retain heat, and this will inevitably lead to death. Thanks to its small eyes, the otter sees perfectly on land and under water. They also have short legs and sharp nails. The toes are connected by membranes, which makes it possible to swim well. When the otter dives into water, its ear openings and nostrils are closed by valves, blocking water from entering there. In pursuit of prey under water, the otter can swim up to 1000 feet (300 m).
When a mammal senses danger, it makes a hissing sound. While playing with each other, they squeal or chirp. An interesting fact is that in some parts of the world the otter is used as a hunting animal. They are able to drive fish into nets. The otter has a lot of enemies. Depending on their habitat, these can be birds of prey, crocodiles, bears, stray dogs, wolves and jaguars. But man remains the main enemy, he not only hunts her, but pollutes and destroys her environment.
Habitat and lifestyle
The otter can be found on all continents except Australia and Antarctica. Since their habitat is related to water, they live near lakes, rivers and other bodies of water, and the water must also be clean and have a strong current. During the winter (cold) period, the otter can be seen in those parts of the river that do not freeze through. The animal hunts at night, and prefers rest during the day. This occurs in the roots of trees near the water or in their burrows. The entrance to the hideout is always built under water. Often otters live with beavers, in holes dug by them, since otters themselves do not build such holes. If nothing threatens otters, they are active during the day.
What do otters eat?
The otter’s main food source is, of course, fish. Also, these mustachioed predators love molluscs, all types of crustaceans. Otters and bird eggs, small birds and small rodents are eaten. The otter can eat waterfowl, usually injured.
Otters spend most of their lives in search of food, they are quite agile and fast. Due to their gluttony, their habitats should be fishy. This animal is a wonderful hunter, therefore, having eaten, the hunt does not end, and the caught fish act as a kind of toy.
An interesting moment! The metabolism of river otters is so fast that the food eaten passes through the intestines in just 1 hour. Therefore, they have to hunt regularly, both day and night.
Reproduction and lifespan of otters
Most species are solitary and pair up only for the breeding season. On average, the ability to reproduce occurs about 2–3 years of age. The mating season for Eurasian otters lasts all year round, for Canadian otters – from December to April. In times of lack of food, animals reproduce less frequently. Mating can take place both in water and on land. Animals are polygamous, with males fighting for the right to mate with a female. Pregnancy lasts approximately 60-63 days. But the pregnancy itself can start with a delay of several months.
The litter is from 2 to 4 babies. They are born blind and in fur, vision appears after a month of life. In the second month of life, babies have teeth. After about a year, the babies leave their mother.
How long does an otters live?
In the wild, otters live up to 10 years. In captivity, they live up to 20 years.
Natural enemies of otters
The otter doesn’t have many enemies in the water. In the water, the animal is hunted by:
- american alligators,
- american crocodiles,
- killer whales,
- great white sharks
- eagles (carry babies off the surface of the water)
On land, the animal is much more vulnerable than in water. On land, the animal is hunted by:
- polar bear
- brown bear and grizzly
- domestic dogs
The giant Brazilian otters are the safest, thanks to their impressive size and living in large groups. However, these animals can be food for the jaguar, caiman, large python or anaconda, especially for juveniles and young.