Scientific Name: Lontra canadensis.
The Environmental Park at SciWorks is home to two North American River Otters. Mollie, who was obtained from Homosassa Springs Wildlife Park in Florida, and Otto, who was sent to us from a wildlife rehabilitation facility in Arizona.
River Otters live both in water and on land. They burrow near the water’s edge. They make numerous tunnels, one of which goes to and from the water. When they are in the water, otters use their tail and webbed feed to propel them through the water and flex their bodies to swim. An undercoat of fur helps to keep otters warm in the coldest of water and the outer water resistant fur helps to keep them dry. River Otters also have nostrils and ears that close in the water. This allows them to stay under water for up to eight minutes!
The female usually has a litter of one to six pups. At two months of age, the mother pushes them into the water for an advanced swimming lesson. With the mothers help, pups learn how to become great swimmers and how to get away from predators. Otters are very playful animals. They love to find a muddy or snow covered slope and slide down head first into the water. They also wrestle, belly flop, and do somersaults. The River Otter in the wild can usually live eight to nine years.
River Otters live throughout the U.S. and Canada. They have become extinct or endangered in many areas of the U.S. due to their sensitivity to environmental pollution. They inhabit streams, lakes, reservoirs, and wetlands. Otters will forage for a wide range of food items including crayfish, frogs, turtles, fish, and aquatic invertebrates.