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A white wave shape.

River otter

Introducing our playful, always-entertaining river otters, Molalla and Ahanu!

These fun-loving, raucous boys spend a great deal of time on land exploring, searching for food, clowning around and generally having a great time—much to the delight of our visitors.

At the Aquarium

Who’s who? River otters vs sea 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 two to three 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.

Quick facts

Adult river otters are approximately 20 to 25 pounds.

Their diet consists of fish, frogs, crayfish, snails, rodents and birds.

River otters are usually found alone or in family groups.

Explore More Mammals

Website maintenance

Please note: Our ticketing and membership systems will be offline for approximately two hours starting at 9pm Pacific on Tuesday, February 20. During the maintenance window, online ticketing and membership will not be available.

Thank you for understanding.

Support the Seattle Aquarium

Two sea otters at the Seattle Aquarium floating on the water in their habitat, holding onto each other demonstrating a rafting behavior.

With your help, the Seattle Aquarium builds connections with our community to inspire conservation and curiosity for marine life. When you make an end-of-year gift by December 31, you'll be joining us in protecting our shared marine environment—now and for generations to come. Thank you!

An adult sea otter at the Seattle Aquarium looking upwards with its front paws resting on its front.

Giving Tuesday

Make a tax-deductible donation to the non-profit Seattle Aquarium

Your donation will be matched dollar-for-dollar up to $10,000 thanks to a very generous anonymous donor!

Sea otter at the Seattle Aquarium laying on its back, raising its head and front paws.

Cyber weekend

Get 15% OFF all memberships!