North American River Otter

Otters?

Otters?  In Houston? Really? That is the universal reaction we get at the Wildlife Center when visitors to our facility or website discover that we are caring for three juvenile North American River Otters.  The next statement is invariably, “Why, I’ve never even seen an otter here!”  They are in good company.  Researchers specializing in otters can go years without seeing a wild otter in the flesh.  They have to conduct their research using scat, tracks and images caught on camera traps.  The rarity in sightings should not, however, be equated with a lack of individuals. There are a number of reasons why otters are not often seen.  Even in healthy river environments, the abundance of otters is never high.  The best estimates of researchers, and estimates they are, put a natural population density at one individual to every 2 to 10 miles of river.  By their very nature, river otters are shy and elusive.  Also as river creatures, not much of them can be seen when they are in their favored habitat.  While in the water, only a small portion of their heads can be seen.  Trying to differentiate them from a beaver or nutria is very difficult.  River otters, as a rule, are active on land only at night and remain in the water or in a den during the day. Otters belong to the weasel family, the Mustelidae.  Other members include ferrets, mink, badgers and wolverines.  These creatures are all noted for their boundless energy and voracious appetites.  Their body plans are equally similar:  long thin flexible bodies, a small head equipped with powerful jaws and short strong limbs.  Also in common to all of the species is a set of large [...]