North American River Otter

(Lontra canadensis)


Animal Info

There are three river otters at Seneca Park Zoo, two females and one male. The two females are sisters named Heather and Sara. Both were born in 2003 and came here in 2009 from the Jacksonville Zoo. The male, Sailor, was born in 2007 and came to the Zoo in May 2012 from a private facility in Myrtle Beach, South Carolina.

Status in the Wild

International Union for Conservation of Nature (IUCN) Red List status: Least concern. North American river otters have been trapped for their highly-prized furs, resulting in a steep decrease in population since the 1800s. However, the otter is being restored to places where it is regionally threatened, resulting in an otter come back in many places. Seneca Park Zoo is part of an initiative to reintroduce the river otter back to Western New York. Releases have taken place in Honeoye Lake and the Genesee River, among other locations. Laws protecting the otter from over-hunting and habitat destruction have been important U.S. conservation measures.


North American river otters reside throughout the U.S. and Canada along rivers, near streams and lakes bordered by woods with wetlands.


River otters are carnivorous creatures. They eat fish, crayfish, frogs, salamanders, snakes, clams, snails, turtles, birds, rodents and insects.

Did you know?

River otters can travel underwater a quarter of a mile and stay submerged for about eight minutes at a time.

Not only water creatures, river otters travel across land. They run and slide along the belly up to 18 miles per hour.

The otter’s thick coat is made of guard hair and an undercoat. The undercoat next to the skin stays dry, insulating the otter from the cold water in its environment.

River otters do not compete with humans for game fish.

River otters are crepuscular, meaning they are more active at dawn and at dusk than other times of day.

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