May 30, 2018
By: Alexander Huey, Marketing and Communications Specialist at Delaware State Parks
The North American river otter’s name may be deceptive. Though they may be called river otters, that does not mean they can only be found in rivers. In fact, they are known to call many types of North American waterways home. This includes rivers, ponds, wetlands, and coastal shorelines. As long as they can find food and safe non-polluted water, otters are happy to make a habitat their home. While we already know these creatures are “otterly” adorable, here are three reasons why we love the North American river otter on this #WorldOtterDay.
Living near waterways means otters must become excellent swimmers, but they are not born with this talent. Pups may be scared of water at first, but they quickly learn to swim when mothers often push them in and force them to learn. Though swimming may not come naturally at first, otters are well suited for water. Well equipped with webbed feet and water-repellant fur, their talents of holding their breath underwater for up to eight minutes and ability to close their nostrils and ears to keep out water helps them feel just as much at home in the water as they are on land.
North American River Otters are intelligent and great problem solvers. Not only do they leverage this intelligence to come up with creative methods of capturing their prey, but they also use it for fun! These playful creatures are known to build slides on muddy or snow river embankments and repeatedly slip and side into the water below. There has been no evidence that suggests this behavior is in connection to eating, reproducing or protecting territory; it is simply for fun!
The North American river otter was once abundant throughout much of the United States. Unfortunately, unregulated trapping for their thick fur coats and loss of wetland habitat caused a steep decline or extinction of many state populations. Fortunately, strict regulations and reintroduction programs helped stabilize many populations throughout the United States. While otters can be seen regularly throughout Delaware, they are very sensitive to polluted waterways so we must make sure to stay aware of environmental factors that could cause them harm.
You can see these playful creatures for yourself. Delaware State Park’s Brandywine Zoo is home to Timber and Clarke, a playful pair of North American river otters. Have you visited this playful pair? Plan a visit with your friends, family, or significant “otter” and visit the Brandywine Zoo soon!