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Rollin’ with the River Otters

Nov 03, 2014

One of Missouri’s most curious creatures that dominates its lakes and streams is one that is fun to watch.

The river otter is a playful cousin to mink, weasels and skunks. (Like their relatives, they use their scent glands to mark their territory and scare off intruders.) Otters live along slow-moving streams and lakes.

An otter’s long slender body and short legs are perfect for life in the water.  Webbed feet and a long tail help otters out-maneuver even the most agile fish.  Otters seem to have a great zest for sliding…in a pool of water or a snowdrift.

Fish and crayfish make for favorite meals, and frogs, salamanders, birds and insects make for a well-balanced diet.

Otters use old burrows from muskrats, beavers and groundhogs for dens.  Two to four young are born in late winter and stay with their parents for a year.

All About the River Otter

  • A century ago, otters were nearly eliminated in Missouri because of unregulated harvest. Restoration efforts in the 1980s and early 1990s included the release of more than 800 otters in the state. Thanks to these efforts, otters are once again found throughout most of Missouri.
  • Otters are relatively long-lived. In captivity, some bred at 17 years and lived to 19 years of age.
  • They are graceful, powerful swimmers and can remain submerged for 3 to 4 minutes. On land, they travel with a loping gate. On snow or ice, they alternate loping with sliding.
  • Social and generally living in family groups, they vocalize to each other through a variety of sounds including chirps, grunts and snarls. Otters also communicate through scent at latrine sites.

Find out more about the river otter with MDC’s Field Guide.

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