Are Otters Predators? 'Otterly' Amazing Facts You Didn't Know!

Anusuya Mukherjee
Oct 19, 2023 By Anusuya Mukherjee
Originally Published on Oct 29, 2021
Oriental small-clawed otter.

Otters are carnivorous animals from the Lutrinae category.

The 13 surviving otter varieties are all semi-aquatic, amphibious, or coastal, with food and diet primarily consisting of fish, invertebrates, and crustaceans. Lutrinae is a subfamily of the Mustelidae group, which also contains weasels, badgers, mink, and wolverines.

With the exception of Australia and Antarctica, the fascinating otter, a species of the weasel group, may be found everywhere in the world. The majority are little, with small ears and noses, long tails, and silky, thick hair. There seem to be a total of 13 species, with varieties like the small-clawed otter and the giant otter.

Otters are relatives of the Mustelidae animal group. They are secretive and mysterious and are adaptable to a wide range of habitats from marine to freshwater conditions.

With a few exclusions, otters are typically connected with water. The sea otter is the largest species of the weasel group, but it is also the tiniest aquatic animal in North America.

The typical family group is made up of the mother and the offspring, with the father only sometimes joining the party.

Otters seem to wander during March and August, then remain in one place around September through February to mate, reproduce, and raise their young. After reading all about the North American river otter, check out these articles about can you have an otter as a pet and are foxes omnivores?

Are otters aggressive towards humans?

Otters are difficult to spot in the national wildlife because they attempt to avoid contact with humans. After that, they escape. Although their natural instinct is to swim and run when approached, otters can be violent when protecting their offspring or a food supply from possible danger.

When irritated, they'll present a short chase—they can dive seven miles per hour and sprint 18 miles per hour on the ground, perforated feet and all—and if things get out of hand, they'll strike. Otters have razor-sharp canines and breaking molars.

They have a powerful bite, equivalent to that of a German shepherd, that can shatter wrist joints but generally perforates or bruises flesh. Attacks are uncommon. Their populations would far rather avoid confrontation with people like us.

How big are sea otters?

The sea otter is the biggest mustelid and one of the tiniest marine mammal species.

Male sea otters typically have a weight of 22 to 45 kg (48 - 99 lb) and measure 3 ft 11 in-4 ft 11 in (1.2-1.5 m) in height, while individuals weighing up to 119 lb (54 kg) have been documented.

Females are shorter, averaging 30-72 lb (14-33 kg) and standing 3 ft 3 in-4 ft 7 in (1.0-1.4 m) tall.

Females river otters can grow to be between 34-60 in (87-153 cm) in length. The marine otter is the tiniest river otter, measuring 34-45 in (87-115 cm).

A giant otter in water.

Can otters live on land?

Otter skeletons are long and slender. These animals have powerful webbed paws and can hold their breath for a prolonged period of time. An otter's physical appearance is ideal for the underwater environment. No, otters cannot survive only on land. These mammals can live on land, but water is essential for their survival.

Some otter subspecies will venture onshore to eat, drink, or comb their coat. However, because otters rely heavily on water, living their life solely on land is not an option.

River otters in North America's offshore waters can run, walk, or glide. Spending a lot of time in the moisture, on the other hand, can make their coat prone to waterlogging.

Lakes, rivers, lagoons, and other bodies of freshwater are frequent haunts of European otters. Their natural habitat is near water, and they are equally adept in and out of it.

European otters spend most of their time hunting in the water, but they relax, clean, and slumber on land. Sea otters are marine mammals confined to the north Pacific Ocean's shores. Their populations spend the majority of their lives in the sea.

They are by far the most water-dependent of all otter subspecies. Sea otters have the highest density of fur of any mammal in the world.

Despite the fact that these mammals can travel on land, they hardly stay out of the water for an extensive period of time. Within the water, sea otters rest, dine and even produce offspring.

What do sea otters eat?

Sea urchins, crabs, mussels, oysters, clams, crustaceans, shellfish, fish, echinoderms, calamari, nematodes, and jellyfish are among items caught by the southern sea otter with its hooked paws rather than its mouth. To maintain body temperature, it needs to eat 20-25% of its body mass nearly every day.

Therefore, it will spend most of the day hunting. This predator, which is regarded as a keystone species, helps save and keep kelp forests healthy by feeding on sea urchins, which, if left unchallenged, can wipe out a seaweed grove.

The urchin eats the holdfast or base of juvenile kelp, which might cause it to float away. Each day, a mature male sea otter can consume up to 50 urchins.

Otter's Natural Predators

Mature otters have few predators, as long as these mammals are healthy. Several terrestrial predators, especially wolves, birds of prey, and huge snakes, may prey and very elderly otters and babies, putting these otters at risk. Predation by killer whales is a danger to the Alaskan sea otter species.

Scientists believe that killer whales have eaten over 40,000 Alaskan sea otters since 1990. A limited number of orcas have converted their primary diet to sea otters as a result of recent colony losses of the killer whales' traditional food, Steller sea lions and harbor seals, in the north Pacific Ocean.

An individual killer whale can eat up to 1,825 Alaskan sea otters per year, according to scientists.

Sea otter corpses have been discovered in the U.S., particularly in California, with scars and tooth remnants from what are assumed to be white sharks. However, there is no conclusive proof that white sharks eat sea otters.

White sharks may assault, but not feed on, sea otters, according to these studies.

In Alaska, the bald eagle is a major predator of immature sea otters. Though, in California, killer whales feast on otters quite frequently and find them to be a tasty meal.

Are otters predators or prey?

River otters are quick, agile divers with a vicious bite, and members of this species have few apex predators in the waters. Nevertheless, carnivores such as bobcats, coyotes, mountain lions, wolves, grizzly bears, and alligators must be avoided on land by a river otter. On land, even pet dogs present a hazard to river otters.

River otters hunt for prey in shallow water using their strong vibrissae or whiskers. These wild animals are carnivores that catch, kill and devour aquatic species such as fish, tortoises, and crabs, as well as birds and their chicks and smaller animals.

In their natural habitat, river otters perform a vital ecosystem function. River otters will be the first to present proof of oil pollutants entering their downstream environment because they are apex predators that eat at the top of the food chain.

Southern and marine river otters are near endangered, while neotropical river otters are near threatened. This is a sign of the need for concerted conservation efforts.

Here at Kidadl, we have carefully created lots of interesting family-friendly facts for everyone to enjoy! If you liked our suggestions for are otters predators, then take a look at are elephants herbivores or otter facts.

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Written by Anusuya Mukherjee

Bachelor of Arts and Law specializing in Political Science and Intellectual Property Rights

Anusuya Mukherjee picture

Anusuya MukherjeeBachelor of Arts and Law specializing in Political Science and Intellectual Property Rights

With a wealth of international experience spanning Europe, Africa, North America, and the Middle East, Anusuya brings a unique perspective to her work as a Content Assistant and Content Updating Coordinator. She holds a law degree from India and has practiced law in India and Kuwait. Anusuya is a fan of rap music and enjoys a good cup of coffee in her free time. Currently, she is working on her novel, "Mr. Ivory Merchant".

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