The ever-curious river otter

Sunday, February 3, 2013

The cute face you see here looking out of the water is a North American river otter. The other photo shows the remains of a large mouth bass that an otter left on a log after eating the meat of the fish.

An adult river otter can weigh nearly 30 pounds and is a fast underwater swimmer. It has large webbed hind feet that can vigorously stir the water when it breaks surface as this one did. It grunted and huffed at me before quickly swimming away.

If you are lucky enough to see an otter slide into the water and go under, you should watch for a trail of bubbles that will tell you which direction and how fast the otter is going. North American river otters do not dig their own dens. Instead they commandeer dens dug by beavers or maybe muskrats making small improvements to suit their needs. In Southeast Missouri young usually are born between mid-February and mid-April. After about two months of age the one to six pups will be big enough and brave enough to leave the den and take naturally to the water.

River otters live in lakes, streams, ponds and swamps as well as rivers. They eat animals that live in water such as fish, frogs and crayfish. I found this otter at Mingo National Wildlife Refuge.

Through the Woods is a weekly nature photo column by Aaron Horrell. Find this column at semissourian.com to order a reprint of the photo. Find more work by Aaron at The Painted Wren Gallery.

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