North American River Otter

A river otter swimming with a fish in its mouth (left) and a river otter walking (right)
Top: a river otter swimming with a fish in its mouth. Bottom: a river otter walking in a refuge.


Graphic with text and matching icons top to bottom: Nature Powers: Versatile in Water and on Land. Stay underwater for up to 8 minutes. Dives to depths up to 45 feet. Close its nostrils to keep water out. Run up to 15 miles per hour.

The North American river otter (Lontra canadensis) is a member of the weasel (Mustelidae) family. Other Mustelids in the park include pine marten, long-tailed weasel, and short-tailed weasel. River otters are not common in the park, though they have been seen at Manzanita and Butte Lakes.

Well-designed for Life in the Water

A river otter is built to swim: short legs and webbed feet provide speed; a long, narrow body and flattened head streamline movement; and a long, strong tail helps propel it through the water.

A Waterfront Home

River otters den in abandoned burrows or empty hollows close to the water’s edge to allow underwater entrance. River otters breed in late winter or early spring and give birth in dens to between one and three pups. The babies are fully furred, blind, and toothless. They first learn to swim after about two months.

A Mother Protecting Her Pups

In summer 2020, a temporary closure was in place to protect a female denning and naturally protecting her three pups with aggression at Manzanita Lake. Biologists will conduct a survey for the river otters in the spring/early summer of 2021 to confirm whether or not the river otters are present and whether additional temporary closures are necessary.

Learn More

Read more about North American river otters on the U.S. Fish & Wildlife Service website.

Last updated: March 30, 2021

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Mineral , CA 96063


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