Happy Otter Day!

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The Basic Facts About River Otters

Today’s animal of the day is not only OTT-erly adorable, but an excellent swimmer as well!  Can you guess which animal we may be talking about?! If you guessed a river otter than you are correct!  These playful creatures reside in aquatic habitats across North America and feed on fish, frogs, crayfish, turtles, urchins, insects and more.  Because otters are amphibious animals, they spend time on land and in the water.  Like we said, otters are playful – they are often seen playing and sliding down river banks together!  Oh, to be an otter!

Photo: Michael L. Baird

The Fun Facts About River Otters

River otters are not only playful but they are extremely intelligent!  New research shows that otters can learn to solve puzzles, simply by copying each other.  Most often, young otters are able to learn quite well from their parents and siblings.  Some of the puzzles researchers gave to the otters included having them open up Tupperware containers with clips, screw-on lids or pull-off lids.  Inside were tasty treats waiting for them like peanuts or fish heads – yuck!

The Environmental Facts About River Otters

Unfortunately, many species of otters are threatened, vulnerable or endangered. A major threat to river otter populations includes water pollution – which affects river otters directly AND indirectly.  For example, certain food sources, such as fresh water mussels, are majorly affected by contaminants in the river system as well.  Without a healthy freshwater mussel population, other organisms that depend on this organism as a food source (like river otters!) will suffer as well.  Freshwater mussels are not only an important food source, but they act as a biological filtration system, removing sediments, contaminants and particles from the water.  This makes them extremely important to the river ecosystem.

Photo: Petr Kratochvil 

River otters are also affected by habitat loss – all across North America wetlands and aquatic habitats are being destroyed owing to development.  This is part of the reason conservation is so important – especially for these playful critters!  In Saskatchewan, there is a particularly important river otter habitat in the Saskatchewan River Delta.  This area is under threat owing to increased urbanization, agriculture demands and peat extraction (an extractive process that destroys wetlands and marshes!).  In order to help our furry friends the river otters, we must advocate to preserve this significant habitat.  Let’s make sure river otters don’t lose their homes!

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