Tacony Creek Creatures: North American River Otters

Intern Emmanuel Hampton continues his Tacony Creek Creatures series with North American River Otters. 

Stop by the River Alive Learning Trail to see the water snake, heron, fox, painted turtle, river otter, and other creatures up close. River Alive Learning Trail free program information here.

Project: Tacony Creek Park Learning Trail, Client: William Penn Foundation

Check out the previous blogs in the series: Red FoxGreat Blue HeronPainted TurtleWater Snake, and last but not least, the Red-breasted Sunfish

Written by Emmanuel Hampton, TTF Intern

North American River Otters are quite the sight to see in Tacony Creek Park. Their slick coats and cute faces are really cool to see.

Don’t be fooled by their appearance, they are more dangerous than you think. Their fur and well-adapted paws allow them to glide through the water. They also are used to easily catch their prey.

These animals might seem cute and cuddly but they are actually only Carnivorous meaning, they only eat meat. River Otters primarily prey on aquatic creatures such as almost all types of fish, crayfish, crustaceans, crayfish, other small mammals, and insects. There have even been reports of River Otters attacking and drowning dogs! That’s not even half of what they’re capable of.

River Otters are very intelligent mammals. They are capable of creating and using tools for tasks like digging and using a rock to break a shell. They play and cuddle with one another and show emotion and affection to one another. They hold their hands while sleeping to not float away from each other. It also lets them share body heat to keep each other warm. Their intelligence even goes as far as having a favorite food and a rock they keep for most of their lives in a mini pouch!

Otters are part of a branch of the Musteldae family. This family mostly includes carnivorous mammals such as weasels, badgers, mink, and wolverines. Northern American River Otters tend to live in places with freshwater, marshes, ponds, lakes, and of course, rivers.

Some say they swim gracefully in the water. The reason why they’re so good at swimming is because of how their fur works. Their fur has coarse guard hairs that help repel the water, making it easier to float. 

Despite being well adapted for aquatic activities, they are just as good out of water. They actually tend to make their dens out of water.

Since they are mammals, River Otters give birth to live babies. The mother takes care of the babies for about 3 months. At 6 months they leave their mothers to start their own lives. The River Otters grow and become mature at 2 to 3 years old.

Their cute tendencies don’t mean they are harmless. River Otters tend to act like cats. That is to say, they are known to kill for fun and amusement when there’s an abundance of food. The most stunning part is what they decide to kill. These mammals are fast enough and have a bite strong enough to prey on snakes and carve out alligators’ stomachs. On some occasions when disturbed, they will attack humans, scratching and biting their victim. 

River Otters don’t have any major weaknesses making them a force to be reckoned with but they do have predators. For instance, Alligators might be attacked by them but are still able to win and prey on them instead, turning the tables on their foe. Apart from even battles, River otters are mostly preyed on by other Apex predators like Bald eagles, wolves, sharks, brown bears, and killer whales. 

River otters are very cute and a lovely sight to see in Tacony Creek Park, just make sure not to disturb them or the view might become unpleasant. Tag us in your TCP River Otter sightings! #TTFWatershed @TTFWatershed

Web Sources: Smithsonian National ZooHow a River Otter Can Bag an Alligator for Lunch, River Otter – CT.gov, National Wildlife Federaton, AZ Animals

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