Do we have otters in North
December 7 , 2004
Yes, there are river otters in North Carolina, and in
recent years the N.C. Wildlife Resources Commission has
reintroduced otters into watersheds in the western part
of the state.
Otters are frolicking, fun-loving balls of fur, measuring
3½ feet long at maturity and weighing as much as
30 pounds. They are related to skunks, minks and weasels,
and are meat eaters. They are considered top predators
and will eat almost anything; fish, crabs, turtles, bird
eggs frogs, clams, snails, crayfish, snakes, muskrats.
Otters are a sign of a healthy waterway, as clean water
is needed to support their food supply.
The largest populations
of otters are found chiefly in the coastal plain,
where sounds, estuaries, rivers, streams and canals
provide plenty of food and ideal habitat. In spring
they give birth to one to five kitten-size young.
The helpless kits are born in riverbank dens or
burrows. Their eyes open after about five weeks
and the female cares for them about a year. In
about three months they’re ready to leave
the den. Otters have few predators, however they
are trapped for their fur.
Otters are on exhibit at the N.C. Aquarium on
Roanoke Island, and the new N.C. Aquarium at Pine
Knoll Shores will exhibit otters when it reopens
in spring 2006.
These aquatic acrobats can hold their breath underwater
for as long as four minutes. They are taught to swim by
their mother, and their streamlined bodies are built for
subaquatic speed. Their fur is waterproof and valves in
their nose and ears close to keep water out. Fast and graceful
swimmers, their webbed feet and foot-long tails help propel
them through the water at speeds up to 12 mph. Otters often
create mud slides on banks, where they skim down on their
bellies, chattering all the while.
Problems between otters and people are rare, however,
when incidents do occur it usually involves otters doing
what otters do – eating fish. This can become a problem
when commercial fishermen, pond owners, or commercial trout
produces experience fish depredation, ranging from otters
eating pond koi or goldfish to extensive depredation in
a commercial fish farming operation. However, it is rare
that otters and people interact. Otters are quite secretive
and generally avoid humans.
The N.C. Aquarium on Roanoke Island features an otter
exhibit, and the new Aquarium at Pine Knoll Shores will
exhibit these playful animals when it reopens in spring