Social Otter

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Scientists suspect otters may even be able to determine the sex, age, and reproductive status of the spraint dropper just from a quick whiff. And since otters have superb metabolisms and can easily eat up to 15 percent of their body weight each day, there's a lot of spraint to go around. In , a female otter at the Monterey Bay Aquarium gave birth to a stillborn pup on the same day a stranded pup was discovered in the wild nearby.

The aquarium staff had previously tried raising pups themselves but found that hand-raised otters became too attached to humans to be released back into the wild. So instead , they dropped the pup in with the female otter, and she immediately went into mom mode. The aquarium has since devised a system of hand-rearing pups for the first six to eight weeks—mostly for bottle feeding purposes—before handing the pups off to female otters for raising.

At six months, the pups are released back into the wild with generally strong results. Otters can have up to one million hairs per square inch. There are two layers of fur—an undercoat and then longer hairs that we can see. The layers manage to trap air next to the otter's skin, which keeps the otters dry and warm and also helps with buoyancy.

Otters love to eat shelled animals, like clams, but they aren't equipped with the strength to open their food without some help.

Therefore, they are big on tools and will often use rocks to help crack into dinner. Some tribes consider the otter to be a lucky animal and a symbol of "loyalty and honesty. Some cultures even forbid eating the creatures and were offended when colonial Europeans began hunting the river otters and selling their furs. In , a study of giant otters found that the river-dwellers have 22 distinct noises they make for different situations. On top of that, pups have 11 of their own calls that they intersperse with "infant babbling.

In Bangladesh, otters help fisherman maximize their haul.


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For centuries, fisherman have been training otters to act as herders and chase large schools of fish into the nets. Keeping an eye on otters in the wild is a tricky task. In the past, observers have usually set up telescopes on shore to try and monitor otters at sea. Otters won't act naturally with humans nearby, and using a telescope on a boat can get tricky in the rollicking ocean.


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But now, scientists are using unmanned drones with cameras to get an aerial look at otters in their element, making it easier to monitor the creatures as they dive for food and go about their day. Or a family or a raft. Otter groups go by a few different monikers, all of which are fairly unique to that crew. Generally, a group of otters on land will go by a romp, while a group hanging in the water is called a raft.

Otter families are usually limited to pups and their mothers, and these duos will spend most of their time either feeding or sleeping. In the downtime, though, otters love to play and will often build themselves slides along the banks of rivers. Once thought to be gone from the area completely, southern sea otters—known as California sea otters—have been making a comeback in recent years. But with their numbers hovering around just a few thousand, researchers have kept a close eye on the population and their studies have revealed an interesting social structure.

The otters, which need to consume 25 percent to 35 percent of their body weight every day in order to maintain their metabolism and keep themselves warm in the cool waters, are divided into three " dietary guilds ": Deep-diving otters that dine on abalone, urchins, and Dungeness crab; medium divers who subsist on clams, worms, and smaller shellfish; and those that stay in shallower waters, feeding on black snails. German zoologist and botanist Georg Wilhelm Steller was the first to scientifically describe numerous new animals on the explorative voyage from Russia.

Aboard the St. Peter , Steller and other 18th-century explorers crash-landed on modern-day Bering Island after getting separated from its sister ship. Over the course of a rough winter, he meticulously documented many species, and while some have since gone extinct like a sea-cow he described that was hunted into extinction , the adorable otter was among his initial discoveries.

A mother will often wrap the babies in kelp to keep them in one place while she hunts.

16 Playful Facts About Otters

Or, she might rely on human resources and otter ingenuity to find a makeshift "playpen" for her pup. Like many animals , otters sometimes behave in ways that aren't exactly within the bounds of what humans would consider morally acceptable. Even if you find them otherwise adorable, otters' mating habits will no doubt make your stomach turn. Male otters' mating techniques are violent. They bite their female partner's face during copulation to keep her from slipping away, leaving her with substantial facial wounds. Delayed implantation a period of arrested embryonic growth accounts for this variation in the length of gestation.

The pups are born toothless and blind in a den that is usually a subterranean burrow. Their eyes open seven weeks later. When about two months old, they begin to leave the den and shortly thereafter start to swim and eat solid food. They are taught to swim by the female who must coax or drag them into the water. Pups are weaned when about five months old. They will stay with their mother until shortly before her next litter is born.

The Marine Mammal Center : Sea Otter

River otters are sexually mature when they are two years old. A female will then mate with the male of her choice and produce one litter each year. Otters can live and breed for more than 20 years. River otters in Alaska hunt on land and in fresh and salt water eating snails, mussels, clams, sea urchins, insects, crabs, shrimp, octopi, frogs, a variety of fish, and occasionally birds, mammals, and vegetable matter.

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Aquatic organisms no bigger than a man's finger are usually eaten at the surface of the water, while larger food is taken ashore. If a fish or other animal is too big to be eaten at one meal, the remains are abandoned and become available to other flesh-eating mammals and birds. Scraps left out of the water may be a significant source of food available to some scavengers when snow and ice are present. Otters are graceful swimmers and propel themselves in the water by paddling or vertically flexing their hindquarters and thick tails.

River otters dive to depths of at least 60 feet 18 m and can stay submerged for more than four minutes. Signs of river otter activity are seen more often than the animals themselves. They travel several miles overland between bodies of water and develop well-defined trails that are used year after year.

They may flatten and dig up the vegetation or snow over an area of several square yards.

The Social Otter

Scats, twisted tufts of grass, and small piles of dirt and vegetation are commonly found in such areas. During the winter, otters dig elaborate tunnels and feeding dens within the snow over a frozen lake or bay where fluctuations in water levels leave cracks for them to come and go. River otters are often found in groups. A family unit is made up of a female and her pups, with or without an adult male.

The family usually travels over an area of only a few square miles. The female appears to dominate the rest and may drive other animals away from a small area around the den where her pups are living.

Other groups may consist of an adult male and female, a litter of pups that remain together after the family separates, or a group of bachelor males. Male groups usually consist of fewer than 10 individuals.

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Larger numbers that are occasionally seen together may represent a temporary association of neighboring groups. The groups have no apparent leader. Otters travel together and operate as a social unit but do not cooperate in hunting or share what is caught. They travel over a wide area, and apparently there are no exclusive territories. Fighting among otters is extremely rare, although they are wary of strange individuals. River otters produce a variety of noises.

They growl, caterwaul, and whine.


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A bird-like chirp apparently expresses anxiety and is most often heard when members of a group become separated.