Department of Environmental Conservation

D E C banner

Watchable Wildlife: River Otter

Did You Know?

A river otter with just its head above the water's surface
River otter - Lontra canadensis
Photo: Susan Shafer
  • Otters groom their fur with a "towel" made of moss or grass.
  • In murky water, they can find their prey by sensing vibrations with their whiskers.
  • The otter is a swift and agile swimmer, using its muscular tail to make sharp turns and steering with its neck and webbed feet.

Watchable wildlife binoculars icon

What to Watch for:


3-4' long including the tail which is about one third of the total length. 10-30 lbs.


Dark shiny brown fur.


3' wide and round in shape. In the winter, look for 6" wide troughs formed when otters slide through the snow into the water.


Otters choose a prominent location such as a rock or peninsula of land for their "toilet" and use it over and over. Look for large collections of scat in such areas.

Where to Watch:

Otters spend most of their time in the water, so look in, or along the shores of ponds, lakes, rivers and the ocean.

When to Watch:

Otters are active year-round.

More Information about River Otters:

Watch a clip about river otters and check out other clips on DEC's YouTube Channel.

The Best Places to See River Otters:

  • Contact for this Page
  • Office of Communication Services
    625 Broadway
    Albany, NY 12233-4500
    Send us an email
  • This Page Covers
  • Page applies to all NYS regions