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North American River Otter Lontra Canadensis - PowerPoint PPT Presentation

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North American River Otter Lontra Canadensis. Ben Robinson. Order: Carnivora Family: Mustelidae Subfamily: Lutrinae Genus: Lontra Species: Canadensis. Taxonomy. Color: Dark brown with paler belly Throat often sliver-gray Total length: 38-58 in Weight: 11-33 lbs

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North American River Otter Lontra Canadensis

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North american river otter lontra canadensis l.jpg

North American River OtterLontra Canadensis

Ben Robinson

Taxonomy l.jpg

Order: Carnivora

Family: Mustelidae

Subfamily: Lutrinae

Genus: Lontra

Species: Canadensis


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Color: Dark brown with paler belly

Throat often sliver-gray

Total length: 38-58 in

Weight: 11-33 lbs

Hair: very smooth, repels water easily

Long, slender body=excellent swimmer

River Otter Identification

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Identification continued

Long, stiff facial whiskers below the nose

which aid in locating and capture of prey

Carnivorous teeth: adapted for grasping, grinding, shearing, and crushing

Feet: large and completely webbed

Tail: very muscular, important for swimming, makes up 50% of total body length

Maximum body length is reached at 3-4 years

Typical Foods: Fish, aquatic insects, crayfish, snakes, frogs, and to a lesser extent waterfowl and mammals.

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North American River Otter Skeleton*Note the Long Tail*

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River Otter Tracks

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Breeding: early spring; mating may take place in water or on land

No strong bond between male and female

Male will mate with more than one female

Males will compete heavily for females

Females exhibit delayed implantation

Life History

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Life History continued

  • Delayed Implantation: female may retain the fertilized egg for long periods of time before implantation to become more nutritionally fit

  • Young: born April-May

    litter 1-5 pups

    young born with eyes closed and no teeth

    female cares for pups

    pups begin to swim at 2 months

    weaned at 4-5 months, may stay with mother for 1 year

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Males and females are able to reproduce at 2 years, however males may not be successful until ages 5-7

Voice: Whistle and chattering call during mating season, soft chuckle, chirp, grunt, snort, and growl

Life History continued

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Sounds of the Otter



Upset Otter

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Cape-clawless otter

Oriental-small clawed otter

Congo Clawless otter

Sea otter

North American River Otter

Marine Otter

Neotropical Otter

Southern River Otter

Eurasian Otter

Spotted-necked otter





North America

North America

South America

Mexico & South America

South America

Asia & Europe


Diversity of Group13 species worldwide; 2 in North America

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India smooth-coated otter

Hairy-nosed otter

Giant Otter



Southern Iraq & Asia

South America

Diversity continued

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North American Population Statusand Status in Kentucky

  • North America: River Otter numbers have drastically decreased since the 1800’s

  • WHY? Over-harvest (trapping), Habitat Destruction, and Pollution

  • Over 30,000 pelts are sold annually in the United States today

  • DDT pollution: gets into the liver and slowly kills the animal (a big problem in the past)

  • Chemicals from crops (pesticides, herbicides) get into fish from run-off and the otter eats the fish = SLOW DEATH

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Status in Kentucky

  • Statewide, but not very common

  • Generally more abundant in western Kentucky

  • Increasing in central and eastern restoration areas

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2003-04 Small Game Kentucky Hunting Seasons


  • Noon November 10, 2003 through noon February 29, 2004

  • (Includes raccoon, opossum, mink, muskrat, beaver, red fox, gray fox, weasel and striped skunk)

    *NOTE: NO River Otter*

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Not federally threatened or endangered, but could become so due to drastic declines in numbers! Are listed as threatened by some individual states.

Threatened or Endangered

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Wetland Habitat Needs

  • Found in a variety of aquatic habitats: from riparian to riverine to marine

  • Only found in areas with adequate vegetative cover

  • Must have sufficient food supply

  • Need a variety of dens, activity, and resting areas

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  • The River Otter is a predator at the top of the aquatic food chain

  • Important in the nutrient cycle by transferring nutrients from one ecosystem to another

    Does this by feeding on aquatic organisms, then leaves its waste on land

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Ecology continued

  • River otters frequent the same terrestrial area to deposit waste; known as a latrine

  • Even though Otters are predators, the pups are constantly preyed upon by Bald Eagles and other large birds

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Management Concerns

  • Most states have strict regulations on otter harvest

  • However, they are less strict on beaver harvest

  • Otters and Beavers occupy the same habitat types = otters being trapped in beaver sets

  • Because otters (carnivores) require more habitat area than say beavers or muskrats (herbivores), they will never be as abundant as these animals

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Management ConcernsWhat is being done?

  • Many states closely monitor otter numbers

  • HOW?

    1)Pelt Regristration

    2)Fur buyer and trapper questionnaires

    3)Winter track counts

    4)Mammal observation studies

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Latrine System

  • The latrine system “bathroom” used by otters is one technique used by managers to monitor the abundance of otters in an area

  • According to the Alaska Department of Fish and Game, River Otter habitat selection and population monitoring can be achieved by studying latrine sites

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Thank you for your time…Any questions?

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