The river otter (Lutra canadensis) occurs throughout N America except in desert and arid tundra regions. In Canada it is scarce, except along the BC coast, where it is abundant and often wrongly identified as a sea otter.


The otter is a large weasel, males reaching 1.3 m in length and weighing 8 kg; females are slightly smaller. Its colour is dark brown, with a paler belly. It is amphibious, its streamlined body and tail, short legs, webbed feet and dense waterproof fur equipping it to hunt in water. The otter's food is 90% fish, but crustaceans, amphibians, mammals and nesting birds are also important.

Reproduction and Development

The otter has a lengthy mating period in late winter and spring; gestation including a lengthy period of delayed implantation, lasts 9½-12½ months. Young (1-4) are born in a nest under a rock pile or in a burrow or similar shelter.

Relationship with Humans

The pelage is dense and protected by long guard hairs with an underfur of several fine hairs per follicle. It is valued as a beautiful and durable fur; several thousand otters are trapped each year. Where not harassed, otters tame easily. They are abundant even in such busy harbours as Vancouver. See also Fur trapping.