The North American river otter is the only inland otter species in North America. They are also part of the weasel family. Otters are typically under water for 1 to 2 minutes, but they can be under there from 6 to 8 minutes! Otters were also trapped for their fur up until about 1977.
Status in the Wild
River otters have brown fur on the back with paler underbellies. The lower jaw and throat is whitish. They have a head that looks flat on top but is otherwise rounded and supported by a short neck that is as wide as their skull. The body of a river otter is cylindrical and ends in a muscular and flexible tail that is thicker at the base than at the tip. They have short legs and webbed toes that allow them to thrive as swimmers. However, as aquatic mammals, they also have small ears and nostrils which can be closed underwater, allowing them to hold their breath until they resurface.
Populations are adversely affected by water pollution, habitat destruction and fur trapping. However, sustained conservation efforts in certain parts of their historic range - especially in the interior of the United States -- have increased riverine populations in those areas.
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Listed as of “least concern" on the IUCN Red List (International Union for Conservation of Nature and Natural Resources).