By Cheryl Conley, TWRC Wildlife Center
Most people assume that the animal they are seeing in area lakes and streams is a beaver but it could be a river otter. Most people don’t realize that we have otters in our area.
River otters are fascinating little creatures. They are semi-aquatic spending about two-thirds of their time on land and the other third in the water. They live in dens called holts, near water, that have several tunnel openings with at least one leading them directly to a lake, stream, inland wetland or marsh. Their webbed feet and powerful tails make them strong swimmers. When they’re in the water, their nostrils and ears close to keep water out. They have a third eyelid, or nictitating membrane, that acts like the goggles we wear when we swim. It protects the eyes and helps them to see underwater. They can dive up to 60 feet and can hold their breath for up to eight minutes.
The diet of the river otter is mainly made up of aquatic organisms including fish, turtles, frogs, crayfish, etc. but since they’re semi-aquatic, they’ve also been known to eat small mammals like squirrels and mice.
River otters are good communicators and have a variety of vocalizations. They yelp, whistle, growl and chirp and when threatened, they emit a scream that can be heard up to a mile and a half away!
Although they live alone or in pairs, river otters are very social and playful—guess you could call them party animals. The playful furballs roll down hills, juggle pebbles, wrestle, frolic in the water and even build themselves slides along the banks of rivers.
If you need assistance with an injured, orphaned or displaced animal, give us a call. In most cases, the animal doesn’t need rescuing but we will help you make that determination. If the animal does need help, we will walk you through the process to keep both you and the animal safe. Our phone number is 713.468.TWRC. Our website has helpful information as well.