The otter is a mustachioed representative of the weasel family. This is not only a fluffy and pleasant-looking animal, but also a tireless wonderful swimmer, diver, smart predator, and a real fighter, ready to fight with an ill-wisher. Water is the element of the otter, it is a thunderstorm of fish, crustaceans and mussels. The otter is quite popular on the Internet, this is due not only to its attractive appearance, but also to its perky, playful disposition.
Origin of the species and description
The otter is a predatory mammal from the weasel family . In total, there are now 12 different species in the genus of otters, although 13 are known. The Japanese species of these most interesting animals has completely disappeared from our planet.
There are many varieties, but the most famous of them are:
- river otter (common);
- Brazilian otter (giant);
- sea otter (sea otter);
- Sumatran otter;
Asian otter (clawless).
The river otter is the most common, we will deal with its features later, but we will learn some characteristic features about each of the species presented above. The giant otter settled in the Amazon basin, she just loves the tropics. Together with the tail, its dimensions are two meters, and such a predator weighs 20 kg. Paws it has powerful, clawed, fur of a dark shade. Because of him, the number of otters has greatly decreased.
Sea otters, or sea otters, are also called sea beavers. Sea otters live in Kamchatka, in North America, on the Aleutian Islands. They are very large, the weight of males reaches 35 kg. These animals are very smart and resourceful. They put the food they get in a special pocket located under the front left paw. To eat molluscs, they split their shells with stones. The sea otter is also under protection, now its numbers have slightly increased, but hunting for it remains strictly prohibited.
The Sumatran otter is an inhabitant of southeast Asia. She lives in mango forests, swampy areas, along the banks of mountain streams. A distinctive feature of this otter is its nose, it is as fluffy as the whole body. Otherwise, it looks like an ordinary otter. Its dimensions are medium. Weight about 7 kg, length – just over one meter.
An interesting fact: Indonesia and Indochina are inhabited by the Asiatic otter. She likes to hang out in flooded rice fields. Distinguishes it from other types of compactness. It grows to only 45 cm in length.
The claws on her paws are poorly formed, very small and the membranes are not developed. The characteristic differences between different types of otters depend on the environment where they live. Despite some differences, nevertheless, all otters have a certain similarity in many respects, which we will consider using the common river otter as an example.
Appearance and features
The body of the river otter is elongated and has a streamlined shape. The length without a tail varies from half a meter to a meter. The tail itself can be from 25 to 50 cm. The average weight is 6 – 13 kg. The funny cutie-otter has a slightly flattened, wide, mustachioed muzzle. Ears and eyes are small and round. The paws of the otter, like those of a noble swimmer, are powerful, short and have long claws and membranes. The tail is long, cone-shaped. All this is necessary for her to swim. The predator itself is quite graceful and flexible.
The fur of the otter is chic, which is why it often suffers from hunters. The color of the back is brown, and the abdomen is much lighter and has a silvery sheen. On top of the fur coat is coarser, and under it there is a soft, densely stuffed and warm undercoat that does not allow water to pass to the body of the otter, always warming it. Otters are clean and coquette, they constantly take care of the condition of their fur coat, painstakingly cleaning it so that the fur is soft and fluffy, this allows you not to freeze in the cold, because muscular otters have practically no fat in their bodies. They shed in spring and summer.
Females and males of otters are very similar, only size distinguishes them. The male is slightly larger than the female. With the naked eye, it is immediately impossible to determine who is in front of you – a male or a female? An interesting feature of these animals is the presence of special valves in the auricles and nose, which block the ingress of water when diving. The otter's eyesight is excellent, even under water it is perfectly oriented. In general, these predators feel great both in water and on land.
Where does the otter live?
The otter can be found on any continent except Australia. They are semi-aquatic animals, therefore they prefer settlement near lakes, rivers, swamps. Reservoirs may be different, but one thing remains the same condition – this is the purity of the water and its flow. An otter will not live in dirty water. In our country, the otter is ubiquitous, it lives even in the Far North, Chukotka.
The territory occupied by an otter can extend for several kilometers (reaching up to 20). The smallest habitats are usually along rivers and cover about two kilometers. Larger areas are located near mountain streams. In males, they are much longer than in females, their intersection is often observed.
Interesting fact: the same otter usually has several houses on its territory, where it spends time . These predators do not build their dwellings. Otters settle in various crevices between stones, under the rhizomes of plants located along the reservoir.
These shelters usually have multiple exits for safety. Also, otters often use the dwellings left by beavers, in which they live safely. The otter is very prudent and always has a dwelling in reserve. It will come in handy in case her main shelter is in a flood zone.
What does an otter eat?
The main source of food for the otter, of course, is fish. These mustachioed predators love mollusks, all kinds of crustaceans. Otters do not disdain bird eggs, small birds, and hunt small rodents. Even the muskrat and the beaver will be eaten by the otter if she is lucky enough to catch them. An otter may eat a waterfowl, usually an injured one.
An otter spends a huge period of time in order to get its own food. She is a restless huntress, who in the water can quickly chase prey, overcoming up to 300 m. Having dived, the otter can do without air for as long as 2 minutes. When the otter is full, she can still continue her hunting, and with the caught fish she will just play and have fun.
In the fishing industry, the activities of otters are highly valued, because they consume non-commercial fish, which can eat commercial eggs and fry. An otter consumes about a kilogram of fish per day. Interestingly, she eats small fish right in the water, putting it on her belly, like on a table, and pulls a large fish ashore, where she enjoys eating.
Since this mustachioed fish lover is very clean, after after a snack, she spins in the water surface, cleaning her fur from fish remains. When winter comes to an end, an air layer usually forms between the ice and water, and the otter uses it, successfully moving under the ice and looking for fish for dinner.
It is worth noting that the metabolism of otters can be simply envied. It is so fast that the digestion and assimilation of the food eaten is very fast, the whole process takes only an hour. This is due to the high energy consumption of an animal that hunts for a long time and spends in cool (often icy) water, where heat does not stay in the body of the animal for a long time.
Character and lifestyle features
The semi-aquatic lifestyle of the otter largely shaped its way of life and character. The otter is very attentive and careful. She has amazing hearing, smell and excellent eyesight. Each species of otter lives in its own way. An ordinary river otter prefers an isolated lifestyle, such a mustachioed predator loves to live alone, occupying its own territory, on which it successfully hosts.
These animals are very active and playful, they constantly swim, they can walk long distances on foot, they also hunt mobile. Despite its caution, the otter has a very cheerful disposition, possessing enthusiasm and charisma. In the summer after swimming, they are not averse to warming up their bones in the sun, catching streams of warm rays. And in winter, they are not alien to such a common children's fun as skiing from the mountain. Otters love to frolic in this way, leaving a long trail on the snowy surface.
It remains from their abdomen, which they use as an ice cube. They also ride from steep banks in the summer, after all the fun maneuvers, flopping loudly into the water. While riding on such rides, otters chirp and whistle in a funny way. There is an assumption that they do this not only for fun, but also to clean their coats. An abundance of fish, clean and flowing water, impassable secluded places – this is the key to a happy habitat for any otter.
If there is enough food for the otter in the chosen territory, then it can successfully live there for a long time. The animal prefers to move along the same familiar paths. The otter is not strongly attached to a specific place of its deployment. If food supplies become more scarce, then the animal goes on a journey to find a more suitable habitat for itself, where there will be no problems with food. Thus, the otter can travel long distances. Even on an ice crust and deep snow, it can travel 18-20 km in a day.
It must be added that otters usually go hunting at night, but not always. If an otter feels completely safe, does not see any threats, then it is active and energetic almost around the clock – such a fluffy and mustachioed, endless source of vitality and energy!
Social structure and reproduction
The interaction and communication of various species of otters have their own characteristics and differences. Sea otters, for example, live in groups where both males and females are present. And the Canadian otter prefers to form groups of only males, whole bachelor parties, numbering from 10 to 12 animals.
Fun fact: River otters are loners. Female individuals, together with their broods, live in the same territory, but each female tries to allocate her own separate area on it. The male owns a much larger area, where he lives in complete solitude until the mating season begins.
Pairs are formed for a short period of mating, then the male returns to his usual free life, taking absolutely no part in communicating with his children. The breeding season usually takes place in spring and early summer. The male judges the readiness of the female for rapprochement, according to her specific smelling marks left. The body of otters is ready for reproduction by two (in females), three (in males) years of life. To win the lady of the heart, otters-cavaliers often enter into tireless fights
The female bears cubs for two months. Up to 4 babies can be born, but usually there are only 2. Otter mother is very caring and raises her babies up to one year old. Babies are born already in a fur coat, but they see absolutely nothing, they weigh about 100 g. After two weeks, they begin to see clearly and their first creeps begin.
Closer to two months, they are already starting swimming training. During the same period, their teeth grow, which means that they begin to eat their own food. All the same, they are still too small and subject to various dangers, even at six months they stay closer to their mother. The mother teaches her offspring to fish, because their lives depend on it. Only when the babies are one year old do they become fully grown and adults, ready to go free swimming.
The natural enemies of the otter
Otters are quite secretive life, trying to settle in impassable secluded places away from human settlements. Nevertheless, these animals have enough enemies.
Depending on the type of animal and the territory of its settlement, these can be:
- stray dogs;
- large birds of prey;
Usually all these ill-wishers attack young and inexperienced animals. Even a fox can pose a danger to an otter, although it often turns its attention to a wounded or trapped otter. The otter is able to defend itself very boldly, especially when the life of her cubs is at stake. There are cases when she entered into a fight with an alligator and got out of it with success. An enraged otter is very strong, brave, dexterous and resourceful.
Still, people are the greatest danger to an otter. And the point here is not only in hunting and chasing chic fur, but also in human activities. Mass catching fish, polluting the environment, thereby exterminating the otter, which is endangered.
Population and species status
It's no secret that the number of otters has declined catastrophically, their population is now under threat. Although these animals live on almost all continents with the exception of Australia, everywhere the otter is under protected status and is listed in the Red Book. It is known that the Japanese species of these amazing animals completely disappeared from the face of the Earth back in 2012. The main reason for such a deplorable state of the population is man. His hunting and economic activities endanger these baleen predators. Their valuable skins attract hunters who have led to the destruction of a huge number of animals. Especially in winter, poachers are fierce.
Poor environmental conditions also affect otters. If the reservoirs are polluted, it means that the fish disappears, and the otter lacks food, which leads the animals to death. Many otters are caught in fishing nets and die entangled in them. In recent times, fishermen have maliciously exterminated the otter because it eats fish. In many countries, the common otter is now practically not found, although it used to be widespread there. These include Belgium, the Netherlands and Switzerland.
All types of otters today moment are in the international Red Book. In certain areas, the population is slightly increasing (sea otters), but in general the situation remains rather deplorable. Hunting, of course, is not conducted as before, but the numerous reservoirs where the otter used to live are too polluted.
The popularity of the otter, caused by its attractive external data and perky cheerful character, makes many people think more and more about the threat which a person represents for this interesting animal. Maybe, after some time, the situation will change for the better, and the number of otters will begin to grow steadily.
The otter not only charges us with positive and enthusiasm, but also fulfills the most important mission of cleaning water bodies, acting as their natural orderly , because first of all, they eat sick and weakened fish.