Classification: Fur Bearing Wildlife Species
Status: Fur is of moderate value. Official Montana furbearer managed and protected by regulated fur harvest seasons.
Identifying Characteristics: Large, weasel-like, torpedo-shaped, aquatic mammal with a long, round tail. Thickset but streamlined body supported by short, powerful legs. Long stiff facial whiskers located behind and below the nose. Small ears, broad snout, and webbed feet. Body is a rich brown above with a silvery sheen below. The pelt consists of a dense underfur protected by longer stiff guard hairs.
Total length: 35 to 54 inches. Weight: 11 to 33 pounds.
Habitat: Inhabits streams, rivers, and lake borders. Riparian vegetation is a key component of otter habitat. Otters often use bank dens first created by beavers. Availability of food, water, and shelter determine the duration and intensity of habitat use.
Food Habits: The otter dies is primarily fish, but it will consume a variety of aquatic prey.
Life History: Active both day and night. One of the most aquatic members of the weasel family. Sociable animal that dens in banks with entrance below water. Breeds during spring; 9.5 to 10 month gestation; delayed implantation; litter size of 2 to 3 is most common.
Similar Species: Beaver - has a flat, scaly tail. Mink - much smaller, feet not webbed.
River otter are highly skilled swimmers. Rough fish make up a substantial portion of an otter's diet, although game fish of medium size are occasionally caught and eaten. Great travelers, otter circuits may cover 60 or more miles, and take weeks to complete. This species enjoys play, and otters commonly play either alone or with others of their kind. Powerful and streamlined furbearers, otter are recognized as one of the more intelligent species.