The otters we saw on our North Carolina trip would come out on the banks of the ditch sometimes. How many otters can you spot in the photograph above?*
An otter emerging onto the bank. Note its plentiful supply of whiskers that help it navigate underwater when the visibility is poor. There are about 13 species of otters in the world. The ones in my photographs are Northern River Otters (Lontra canadensis), the only species found in our area.
Otters are placed in a subfamily of the weasels (family Mustelidae) and are thus related to badgers, mink, wolverines and all sorts of similar creatures. Probably people are most familiar with Sea Otters (Enhydra lutris), because they frequently appear on TV programs about nature. However, Sea Otters are a marine species, and they occur along the Pacific coast of North America from Lower California north to Alaska, across the Aleutian Islands, and into Kamchatka and northernmost Japan. They are not native to the Atlantic coast of North America,
This otter has caught a fish, and it seems to be enjoying it immensely. Fish are the staple food items of most otters, and their high rate of metabolism requires the consumption of a lot of fish, as much as 2 or 3 pounds a day. However, otters mostly eat non-game species such as suckers and carp. Their feet are webbed, and their tail is long and well-muscled…both adaptations for swimming in pursuit of prey.
*If you could spot three otters in the first photograph, you are a super otter-spotter! One otter is right in the middle, and two others are showing their heads in the very lower right part of the photograph.