of the weasel family loves to cavort on both the land and in the
water. River otters often playfully slide down muddy or icy banks
into a stream. Once underwater, they close small valve-like flaps
over their ears and nostrils to keep water out. This allows them
to plunge to depths of up to 35 feet and stay there for as long
as five minutes. Their sleek bodies and webbed toes help them
maneuver through the water, where they usually catch their prey.
River otters favor fish, crabs and crayfish, but they will also
eat frogs, insects, snails and snakes.
grooming is more a matter of survival than vanity. Air trapped
between their thick, oily outer layer of fur and an undercoat
of shorter fur keeps the otter's skin dry and insulates against
frigid temperatures. If an otter allows its fur to become flat,
the air can no longer circulate, and the animal may freeze.
live on every continent except Australia and Antarctica. They
once inhabited waterways throughout the United States, but their
numbers have dwindled because of hunting and trapping, loss of
habitat and stream pollution. However, they flourish nearly everywhere
they are protected because of their prodigious breeding habits;
shortly after her litter is born, a female otter is ready to mate
© 2000 Terry White, Drawing © 2000 Bill Harrah.