11 Amazing River Otter Facts

River Otter sitting on a log in the water

These adorable 1000 Islands natives are much more than meets the eye!

These 11 amazing facts about river otters are sure to make these critters a family favourite and a must-see on your upcoming visit to the 1000 Islands! But don’t take our word for it: here at the Aquatarium, get up close and personal with our furry friends at The Otter Experience, a glass-enclosed otter habitat. Before your visit, view photos of these fascinating creatures in our River Otters Gallery.

To quench your thirst for discovery until you make your way to the Aquatarium, check out these incredible otter facts:

Lovely Playful River Otters In Symmetrical Stand

1. River otters are just as comfortable in water as they are on land.

Talk about the best of both worlds! The St. Lawrence River provides the aquatic habitat, and the surrounding wetlands and forests provide the perfect dry land home for these playful creatures. The unique intermingling of the two ecosystems makes the 1000 Islands an otter’s paradise.

2. Otters have special vision for seeking out food.

Ever try searching for something underwater? Unless the water is perfectly clear, seeing anything is a challenge. River otters, however, have specialized vision adapted for underwater sight, allowing them to spot fish, mollusks, crustaceans and other prey while zipping through rollicking river currents. The downside? They’re nearsighted when they are out of the water and sometimes can’t see manmade objects until they’re within striking distance.

River Otter playing with a toy

3. They’re everybody’s favourite playmate.

Otters are one of the most playful animals. During your 1000 Islands vacation and visit to the Aquatarium, you may catch sight of these crazy critters doing what they love most: sliding, somersaulting, wrestling and just flopping around. In our carefully designed St. Lawrence River otter habitat, you can watch up close as these wonderful creatures simply enjoy themselves. After all, who doesn’t love a good play date?

4. Otters are master divers!

River otters can hold their breath for up to an amazing eight minutes! But their underwater skills don’t end there: otters can dive up to 60 feet underwater, using their powerful tails to propel themselves forward while paddling with their small webbed feet. Their streamlined bodies allow them to navigate smoothly in the water while their thick coats help keep them warm and dry.

River Otter swimming underwater

5. They’re specially designed to navigate the aquatic environment.

River otters’ nostrils and ears actually close while they’re underwater! Their streamlined shape allows them to glide through the water with ease and their whiskers are long and thick enhancing their sensory perception. These attributes give them optimal physical underwater capabilities!

6. They’re natural-born swimmers.

Okay, one more underwater fact: Baby otters learn to swim when they are only two months old! Their mothers gently push them into the water all at once, and they soon begin to understand how to make the most of their natural skills. No “floaties” for these freshwater friends!

7. Speaking of babies…

Female otters give birth to between one and five young per litter. The babies are called pups and are born with fur. They need tender love and care from their mothers for the first three to six months of their lives.

River Otter looking upward

8. They are clean.

Otters are known to wash themselves after every meal. Some humans could take a lesson from these most beloved animals native to the 1000 Islands!

9. They live well in captivity.

Otters typically have about a 10-year lifespan in the wild, but in captivity, they can live up to 15 years. This is because we protect them from potential predators and pollutants and make sure that they always have enough to eat! That can be quite a break from the hardscrabble life of a St. Lawrence River otter in the wild.

10. They are not safe everywhere.

Otters in the wild are hunted by whales, alligators, wolves, bobcats, bears and other large mammals. Here in the 1000 Islands, a complex food chain is at work, meaning almost no wild animal is truly safe from its natural predators.

11. Otters want a healthy habitat.

River otters are extremely sensitive to environmental pollution. Because of increased development and ongoing damages to otter habitats, river otters are not nearly as common in the wild – including the St. Lawrence River – as they once were.

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