Watchable Wildlife: River Otter - NYS Dept. of Environmental Conservation

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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:

Size:

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

Appearance:

Dark shiny brown fur.

Tracks:

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

Scat:

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:


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