North American River Otter

Characteristics

Like other members of the weasel family (Mustelidae), river otters have long streamlined bodies with short legs.  They have very dense, usually brown fur, with a long tail and webbed feet for swimming.  In the wild, these otters are solitary, except during mating season or when females are raising young.

Behavior

Otters spend up to 60% of their time hunting and foraging.  Other normal otter activities include playing, sliding, grooming, swimming, and digging.  Otters usually hunt at night, especially during the summer.  Like all their relatives, otters have scent glands near the base of the tail.  They use these glands to mark their territory and communicate with other otters.  They also use vocalizations to communicate.

Did you know?

  • Otters can see well under the water, but out of the water they are nearsighted.
  • Because of their high metabolic rate, otters can consume 20% of their body weight per day.
  • Otters use their long whiskers (called vibrissae) to hunt in dark or murky water.

Our Animals

There are two river otters at Potter Park Zoo. Miles, a male, was born at Potter Park Zoo and Nkeke, a female, came to the zoo in 2017.