In the wild, river otters make their homes in a variety of habitats, near both marine and fresh water. In coastal waters, they can be found traveling and foraging in estuaries, marshes and the lower parts of streams. Inland, they’re found in lowland marshes and swamps, streams and small lakes. River otters live in dens, which they can make themselves in shrubbery or along riverbanks – and they are also happy to take up residence in abandoned beaver, badger, fox or rabbit dwellings.
Keeping it clean
Like many land mammals, river otters use their fur coats to keep warm. River otters need to frequently groom their fur to maintain its water resistance and insulating properties. When you come to the Seattle Aquarium, you may be lucky enough to see a river otter “squeegee-ing” the water from its fur against one of the exhibit’s hard surfaces.
Who’s who? Sea otters vs. river otters
Many people don’t know the difference between sea otters and river otters – but, with a little info
, you’ll be able to tell right away. First, sea otters are 2-3 times the size of river otters – and, when at the water’s surface, they float on their backs, while river otters swim belly down like most animals. Next, the tail of a sea otter is short and flattened; a river otter’s tail is long and pointed. Also, sea otters spend most of their lives in the water, where they breed, give birth, hunt for food and sleep. River otters live most of their lives on solid ground and use the water to travel and find food. There are other important differences between these two species as well: Northern sea otters are found only in coastal areas, with a range that extends north from the Washington coast, along the outer edge of Vancouver Island, and up to Alaska. They are occasionally seen along the Straits of Juan de Fuca near Port Angeles, but they rarely venture further inland than that. River otters in our region, on the other hand, are found all over Washington State and are commonly seen in pond and stream habitats as well as Puget Sound. Also, female sea otters give birth to just one pup at a time – river otters may give birth to several cubs in a litter.
for a brochure on the differences between sea otters and river otters.