River otters Watch our otters frolic in their fresh water pool
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Type mammal
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Body Length 50-80cm
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Weight 11kg
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Diet carnivore

North American river otter

Lontra canadensis
  • Summary

    Watch our pair of otters playing, sliding, grooming, swimming and digging.

    Otters are very good swimmers with streamlined bodies and webbed feet. When swimming on the surface, legs are used to perform a doggy-paddle. When hunting underwater, however, the legs are folded close against the body and forward motion is powered by undulating the body and tail, just like a seal.

    Our otters are mostly active early in the morning and late in the afternoon.

  • Dietary

    Otters are carnivores and eat fish, crustacean, frogs, rodents and worms.

    In the wild, otters spend a lot of time foraging for food, so in the Zoo, food is often hidden in different parts of the enclosure so they have to search for it as they would in the wild. Otters dive in pursuit of fish, dragging bigger ones to the bank to eat. They can remain beneath the water for upwards of a minute.

  • Habitat

    River otters live in all types of habitats. The only consistency with these habitats is accessible high quality water and an abundant food supply.

    In the wild, North American river otters are found in fresh water and coastal areas. They are territorial animals, each defending a section of prime river bank or coast.

    species range map

  • Conservation

    The North American river otter is not currently listed as an endangered species but all otters are vulnerable to pollution, habitat loss and hunting. Over 30,000 otter skins are sold in the US and Canada every year.

    Red List Status Least Concern

    Red List Status Least Concern

    IUCN Red List species link

  • Did you know...

    Our river otters are two brothers - they get on very well together and enjoy swimming, sunbathing and rolling around in the sand.

  • Where to find us at Bristol Zoo

    You can find our North American river otter opposite the gibbons, near Gorilla Island

    Bristol Zoo Gardens map with river otters

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