Meet the river otter, the most adorable (in our humble opinion) member of the weasel family! Amphibious river otters are known for their playful personalities in water and on land. Their short legs, webbed feet and waterproof fur allow them to enjoy swimming and floating, but because they don’t have blubber, they have to come ashore to rest, find shelter and travel between bodies of water. River otters make their homes in burrows by the shore, which gives them easy access to the water and their favourite foods: frogs, salamanders, clams, mussels and fish. Sadly, the habitat they rely on is disappearing across North America.
Sink or swim
Baby river otters start their lives in a den. They’re born in early spring and there are usually between one and three pups born in a litter. River otter pups stay with mom for at least a year (or until she has another litter). What does a river otter mama spend her days doing? Teaching her babies to swim, of course! As surprising as it might be, river otter pups aren’t born knowing how to swim. Before the pup takes its first lessons (at about 10-12 weeks old), the mama otter brings her baby everywhere – usually riding along on her tummy. We weren’t kidding when we said they were adorable!
They need our help!
Although they’re found in a wide range of habitats, from wetlands to rivers to shorelines, these spaces are disappearing across North America. Increasing agriculture and growing cities are just two of the threats to otter habitat, but for the river otters that live in the Saskatchewan River Delta, peat extraction (the process of digging up the rich layer of decayed organic matter called peat, found under marshes and wetlands) and the construction of upstream dams could cause even bigger problems.
That’s why Earth Rangers is working with the Canadian Parks and Wilderness Society (CPAWS) on a project that will see an almost 4,000 km2 area of the Saskatchewan River Delta permanently protected. The river delta is a series of connected wetlands and river channels that covers almost a million hectares in the heart of Saskatchewan – and it’s also one of the most biodiverse landscapes in Canada! It’s home to hundreds of species of plants, birds, fish, and mammals (like the river otter), which makes it even more important that we do what we can to protect it today. Do your part by adopting a river otter to help give the animals we love a safe place to call home for years to come!