Zoo Animals

North American river otter

Lontra canadensis

At the Detroit Zoo
The North American river otter family – Sparky, born April 2014 to mother Whisker and father Lucius – along with female Storm, can be seen 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, was born in 2006. 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 gray, 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.

Fun Facts

  • The river otter can stay underwater for eight minutes.

  • The river otter can dive up to 60 feet underwater.