North American river otter

At the Detroit Zoo
The otter family – Sparky, born April 2014 to mother Whisker and father Lucius, along with female Storm – can be seen showing off their aquatic skills at the Edward Mardigian Sr. River Otter Habitat. The naturalistic environment features a 5,900-gallon pool with a waterfall and waterslide, and the habitat is designed so that small children can view the otters at eye level as they swim. Whisker in particular seems to enjoy interacting with visitors through the glass. She came here in 2009 after being hand-raised by a family that found her under a house on Mercer Island, Washington. Her mate Lucius, born in 2006, came here from the Potter Park Zoo in Lansing. He is described as laidback but protective of Whisker. Storm, born in 2001, was rescued from the bottom of a hill along Lake Michigan. After researchers searched for her den and family with no luck, Storm arrived at the Detroit Zoo in 2002.

Once abundant in U.S. and Canadian rivers, lakes and coastal areas, river otter populations have suffered significant declines as a result of fur trapping, water pollution, habitat destruction, pesticides and other threats.


The otter habitat is located across from the beavers on the northern edge of the Cotton Family Wetlands.


The river otter’s fur color ranges from white to grey, brown and black. It has a long, cylindrical, streamlined body, which can weigh 10-30 pounds, and can reach 2-3 feet in length, not including the tail, which can be 1-1.5 feet long. The aquatic mammal sports short, dense, waterproof fur, profuse whiskers and short legs. The otter’s strong tail and webbed feet help propel it through the water, which makes it a great swimmer.

Scientific name: Lontra canadensis
Continent: North America
Habitat: Estuaries, ponds, lakes, rivers, wetlands and along marine coasts
Size: 2-3 feet long (not including the tail); the tail can be 1-1.5 feet long
Weight: 10-30 pounds
Diet: The North American river otter is a carnivore and eats fish, turtles, crabs, mollusks, birds, oysters, shellfish, crayfish, frogs, rodents and insects.
Reproduction: Gestation 60 days; litter of two to four pups
Lifespan: 12 years
Conservation Status: Least Concern



The river otter can stay underwater for eight minutes.

The river otter can dive up to 60 feet underwater.