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North American River Otter Fact Sheet

  • Latin Name

    Lontra canadensis
  • Class

  • Order

  • Range

    This mammal can be found throughout Canada and much of the United States. It ranges widely down both coasts and also inhabits the Great Lakes region.

  • Status

    North American river otters were once common in Illinois, but their numbers declined during the 20th century due to water pollution and habitat loss. A reintroduction campaign from 1994–1997 reintroduced hundreds of otters to the state, and their population now ranges in the thousands. Lincoln Park Zoo participates in the North American River Otter Species Survival Plan®, a shared conservation effort by zoos throughout the Association of Zoos and Aquariums.

  • Habitat

    An aquatic mammal, the North American river otter lives in close proximity to water, favoring rivers, streams and marshes.

  • Niche

    North American river otters feed on fish, crayfish, insects, turtles, frogs and other animals they catch in the water.

  • Life History

    Otters can be found living alone or in family groups consisting of a female and her offspring. If resources are plentiful, the species can form larger groups as well. Females retreat to dens to give birth to their young, which are called kits. Kits first take to the water when they are two months old, swimming easily.


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