Greetings, Skeleton Crew! Your newest Limited Edition skull, the North American river otter, has arrived, and we hope you are delighted by your new specimen. Otters are beautiful, fascinating creatures, and we hope that adding this skull to your collection sparks a new level of curiosity for you and those around you. To expand on the info you’ll find on your Limited Edition animal fact trading card, we thought we’d tell you a little bit more about what makes this species of otter so special.
Living in freshwater and coastal marine areas, the North American river otter are the most abundant species of otter. They can be found in the lakes, rivers, ponds, and marshes of (you guessed it!) North America. River otters only really need about 3 to 5 square miles of land to call home, and they will only choose areas that offer protection and coverage, such as areas with rock piles and an abundance of vegetation.
River otters are comfortable on land, but their bodies are designed to swim. Featuring webbed feet and a long, flat, muscular tail that helps the otter to steer, these little swimmers can dive to depths of up to 60 feet! In the water, river otters are considered apex predators. They have unique flaps that close off the nostrils and ears, allowing them to remain submerged for up to eight minutes with one single breath. Because of how deftly they move through the water, they tend to have very few run-ins with predators. On land however, otters are not as swift and can easily fall victim to wolves, eagles, bears, bobcats, and coyotes.
Otter groups tend to be comprised of females and their pups. When they are in a group, otters famously engage in playful behavior that serves a few purposes. In addition to strengthening social bonds in the group, specific play activities teach and help to hone survival techniques for the otters. For example, one of the most common play behaviors for this species is sliding. Groups of both wild and captive otters are often observed sliding face-first down the same snowbank or muddy hill. Some theorize that this sliding behavior is simply the most functional way for otters to travel from point A to point B. While this is technically true, groups of otters have been observed sliding down the same hill repeatedly within a short period of time, proving that sliding can be fun AND functional!
Want to observe some adorable otters at play? Check out this live stream hosted by our friends at the Tennessee Aquarium in Chattanooga. Hopefully you’ll be lucky enough witness a game of “hide-and-smell”, in which “the animals will scent mark their favorite locations and Aquarium experts will occasionally introduce treats and new scents for the otters to discover.”