Otter: Habits, Diet and Other Facts
The otter is a vertebrate, mammal and carnivore animal, and belongs to the Mustelidae family, the same family as the ferret. These animals are found in almost every region of the planet. In Brazil, there are two species, and both are at risk of extinction.
As stated, otters are vertebrate animals, mammals and carnivores. Thus, they present some specific characteristics of the Mammalia class (mammals), such as the body covered with hair. They have others related, for example, to their way of life, such as the presence of a robust tail that helps them in swimming. Otters spend much of their time in an aquatic environment, being considered semi-aquatic animals.
The following are some characteristics of otters:
- They have an elongated and thin body that can reach, on average, 1.5 meters in length;
- The body is covered by a dense, impermeable brown fur, varying between light and dark tones;
- They have interdigital membranes, that is, membranes between the fingers that help them in swimming;
- They have strong, sharp teeth, which contributes to their type of diet;
- Otters are carnivorous animals and feed mainly on fish. However, small mammals, reptiles, amphibians and birds may also be included in your diet;
- They have some very heightened senses, such as sight, hearing and smell.
The gestation time of the otter varies among species. In each pregnancy, the number of puppies can also vary, however, there is an average of two puppies at a time.
Puppies are born blind and only open their eyes from the fourth week after birth, being, until then, dependent on the mother. They live with them until they are one year old.
Otter or Neotropical Otter (Lontra longicaudis)
The otter or neotropical otter inhabits from freshwater environments, in forest regions and even affected by human action, to marine environments, such as rocky shores. In addition to Brazil, it is also found in countries such as Bolivia, Venezuela, Mexico, Honduras, among others.
Its diet is also quite varied, although its main food source is fish. The otter also feeds on insects, crustaceans, amphibians and molluscs. In addition, it can feed on other animals, in an opportunistic way, as long as they have a slow ability to escape.
Giant otter or giant otter (Pteronura brasiliensis)
The giant otter or giant otter, unlike the neotropical otter, has a greater habitat selectivity, living mostly in freshwater environments and, preferably, presenting banks with gentle slopes and denser vegetation (so that it can build its lair), in addition to of abundant food.
It feeds mainly on fish, and alligators and turtles can also be consumed occasionally. In addition to Brazil, the giant otter is found in countries such as Bolivia, Venezuela, Peru, Paraguay, Colombia etc. The giant otter or giant otter usually lives in family groups with up to 15 individuals. To learn more about the otter, read: Otter: characteristics, food and curiosities.
Currently, all 13 species of otters require attention regarding their conservation status. This is due, among other factors, to the destruction of their habitat, with the destruction of vegetation on the banks of rivers, the damming of water bodies, etc.
In addition, hunting, water pollution and the trade in otters (mainly some Asian species) as pets (taking them out of their habitat for captivity) have led to a decline in otter populations.
Currently, the species of otter that occur in Brazil, the neotropical otter and the giant otter, are classified, according to the Red List of Endangered Species, by the International Union for the Conservation of Nature and Natural Resources (IUCN), as quasi threatened and endangered, respectively.