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River Otter

Lontra canadensis


The river otter is Minnesota's largest aquatic carnivore that lives in most northern Minnesota lakes, ponds, and streams. It can swim and maneuver better than many fish, and swims with only the top of its head out of the water. After an absence of more than a century, its range is again extending into southern Minnesota. Identification General description: The otter is perfectly suited for an aquatic life. Long and sleek, it has short legs, webbed feet, and a long tapered tail. The fur is a rich brown, moderately short, and very dense. Length: Adult river otters are about four to five and one-half feet long, including its 18-inch tail. Weight: Adult otters weigh up to 30 pounds, though 15 to 19 pounds is average. Color: The back and sides are glossy dark brown to black, and the underside, throat, and cheeks are gray-white.


Food Otters eat a variety of small aquatic organisms such as fish, clams, muskrats, and turtles. They can also catch terrestrial mammals such as chipmunks, mice, and young rabbits. Predators Very few predators can catch an otter when it is in the water. However, otters on land can be killed by bobcats, coyotes, and wolves. Habitat and range Early in the Twentieth Century, otter range was greatly reduced in Minnesota as a result of wetland drainage and pollution which destroyed habitat. Today, otters are common in all of northern Minnesota, and thanks to wetland restoration, are becoming more common again in southern parts of the state. Otters are tireless travelers. In a single week they may range as far as 25 miles.


I was excited to see this large River Otter feeding on the ice of Leech Lake in Walker, MN. I used to watch otters play during the winter when I was young. This was a cold day and the otter caught many sunfish while I watched across the open water. It was a below zero day but well worth tolerating the cold.

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RosalieLandt 10 years ago

:) Thank you Rick!

RickBohler 10 years ago

Nice series my friend

Spotted by

Walker, Minnesota, USA

Spotted on Feb 27, 2012
Submitted on Jun 27, 2013

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