In this edition of Amanda's Zoo Crew we learn about the river otter.
The river otter is one of the most playful and social animals in the state of Minnesota.
"You can see that they like to swim, they like to look at things, they're very curious about nature," said Oxbow Park naturalist, Clarissa Schrooten. "But if they see humans, they may follow you along but they're going to dive underwater where they find safety because they are more of an aquatic animal here in Minnesota too."
River otters will often walk around with a bend in their body.
"They are a member of the weasel family, that mustelid family, so being a weasel they have that long tubular body, a longer tail, a narrow head and then short stubbier legs which of course helps them in the water," said Schrooten. "That whole body makes them more aerodynamic when they swim but it's a weasel thing too. So when they go to run they pull there feet closer together so they can be a little faster so they can lope along a little more efficiently than if they were more spread apart."
River otters will find food on both land and in the water. On land they will hunt for mice, squirrels and other small rodents. In water, otters look for fish.
"They're very well equipped that way because between their paws have webbing which allows them to do really well with the swimming," said Schrooten. "They have an extra lining in their eyes so when they go through the water that extra lining protects their eyes. Then they have flaps in their nose and their ears so once they submerge themselves underwater those just automatically close up. They never have that water in their ears."
The river otter spends about even time in the water and on land.
"I would say it's about a 50/50 but it would change depending on the time of year," said Schrooten. "So in the winter they are active but they might spend more time rubbing their necks. They like to play and rub, they like to make slides out of snow and mud into the rivers and slide right on they're belly. It would depend on some climate things that are happening."
The river otter is not endangered.
"Right now they're doing rather well." said Schrooten. "They are spread out and distributed throughout the state of Minnesota and they like to be on the river, of course, being the river otter. They will spend time on lakes too but for the most part they are doing well. There are very short trapping seasons in Minnesota and it's a very limited amount. They used to be over trapped so they've actually come back from a major decline. When you look at their fur you can understand they were trapped for their fur baring purposes. So that's why they went and had such a dive but they're population is coming back up and they're in that healthy range."
For more information on the River Otter head to the DNR, NWF, or National Geographic.