Information about the Otter mammals : Otters are mammals belonging to the lutrinae subfamily. There are about 13 different Otter species and they belong to 7 different genera, based on the information from the Integrated Taxonomic Information System. They are semi-aquatic but can be referred to as aquatic animals too. These you can see during our exciting Uganda safari.
Otters differ in sizes and the largest of them all is called a giant otter, which can grow up to 4.9 – 5.9 feet long. Although it’s the biggest in size, it’s not really that heavy compared to other species because they heaviest is called a sea otter. A male sea otter can weigh 41 kilograms. Then the smallest of all otters is the one we call Asian small-clawed otter and this grows up to only 90 centimeters long and weigh just about 5 kilograms
Physical characteristics and behavior
Otters have long and streamlined bodies, their feet are webbed to allow them swim properly because they are actually born swimmers and that is why they are commonly found in wet places all over the world except in Australia and Antarctica. Otters are time and again seen floating in water bodies on their backs.
They have very thick fur that traps air thereby making otters buoyant. Actually, they have two different layers of fur; there is the dense undercoat, which is very useful at trapping air and then the topcoat, which has long and waterproof fur. It is unfortunate that this fur is on very high demand in so many countries and that is why humans are hunting them to almost extinction all over the world.
In terms of behavior, otters are social animals, they live in groups called rafts. They are basically nocturnal therefore the best chance of seeing them is having a late evening or night game drive because that is the time when they come out of the hiding to hunt.
They spend a lot of time playing around for instance they love sliding off the embankments and land into water, they also like wrestling and chase after their own tails as well as so many other games. They very inquisitive animals therefore they often investigate lots of different new things as they encounter them.
During daytime, otters spend a lot of time grooming themselves. This is the time they reduce the fur on their bodies by biting it off, although sometimes they go rub their entire body against rocks, sometimes logs and grass.
Where to find Otters
These animals can be found almost anywhere across the world however they prefer the wet places where there is some freshwater flowing like around lakes and rivers, near oceans or just along coastlines and also in the marshes. They often sleep in dens which were constructed by different animal like may be the beavers and such burrows usually have many different channels leading to different chambers.
Sea otters on the other hand seldom come out of the water to the shore. Such otters are only found in the Pacific coasts in Russia and also in Alaska as well as along the coast of central California. They also like living along offshore of forests with giant kelp. They happen to eat and rest as well as grooming especially their little ones from the top of the water as they float.
In Uganda, otters are often seen Lake Mburo national park. There are 3 types of otters living very close to Lake Mburo.
What otters feed on
The Otters are carnivorous animals that feed on meat mainly. The Sea otters however feed on variety of water animals like the fish, the mussels, crabs, clams, snails, urchins, abalone and over 40 other different water species that they come across. Every day, they consume food that is approximately 25% of their own body weight. The river otters feed on stuff like the frogs, the crabs, small fish, the crayfish as well as the mollusks. Sometimes they feed on small mammals and small birds too.
Growth, reproduction and life span of otters
Otters are mature enough for reproduction between the ages of 2-5 years. After an adult female otter conceives, the smaller otter types get a gestation period of only 2 months while the bigger ones like the sea otter have a gestation period of 5 months. After those months, the mother gives birth to about 1-5 little ones but normally, only 2 offspring are born at a time. The sea otters give birth from within the water while the rest of them do this on land, from their dens and the offspring are safer there.
The little ones of otter are referred to as pups and they weigh just about 128 grams at the time of death but the larger ones like the sea otters weigh 2.3 kg at birth. The pups are born with sealed eyes but they open when they turn about 1 month and by the time they turn 2 months, they are can go swimming.
When they turn 1 year old, they are ready to be on their own without their mother protection. Then they are ready to care for themselves and go through the same as their parents have gone through.
Otter have a life span of 12 years while living in the wild and they can live longer while living in captivity.