The North American River Otter appears playful and cute, but did you know they are closely related to weasels, wolverines, and skunks?

River Otters are adapted to swim in cold water year-round. They can stay underwater for up to eight minutes and dive to depths of 60 feet.  River Otters hunt underwater, skillfully chasing fish, their main food source. 

Where to Find on Campus: The Flooded Forest, Mississippi River Center

Diet: Mainly eat fish, but might also eat amphibians, snails, small mammals and birds, and invertebrates.

Lifespan: North American River Otters live an average of eight to nine years in the wild and up to 20 years in captivity. They can grow up to two feet and 18 lbs.

Come Back Story

Although river otters were abundant in Iowa during the time of European settlement, hunting, trapping, and habitat loss caused populations to plummet and the species to become extirpated (meaning rooted out or eradicated) from the state. Fortunately, improvements in water quality and trapping management, along with reintroduction efforts, have enabled the species to rebound from its low numbers in the early 19th century.

Did you know?

  • Otters possess a scent glad that they use to mark their territory.
  • Their playful behavior helps young otters learn, strengthens social bonds, and improves hunting techniques.
  • Otters can tolerate hot and cold climates but need unpolluted waters to do so.


otter webcam