River otter emerging from thermal spring in Yellowstone

North American river otter

North American river otters are excellent swimmers and divers. With ears and noses that can be closed underwater, insulating fur and webbed feet, their long, streamlined bodies are well suited to life in the water. On land they are no slouches either. Like other otters they enjoy mud and snow sliding and splashing around in the water. This may look like just having fun but it also encourages bonding and teaches hunting techniques to the young. River otters live in dens near water and catch fish, crayfish and crabs to eat.

Scientific name: Lontra canadensis

Rank: Species

Common names:

  • Common otter,
  • Northern river otter

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Map showing the distribution of the North American river otter taxa

Species range provided by WWF's Wildfinder.

The North American river otter can be found in a number of locations including: North America. Find out more about these places and what else lives there.


The following habitats are found across the North American river otter distribution range. Find out more about these environments, what it takes to live there and what else inhabits them.

Additional data source: Animal Diversity Web

Conservation Status

Least Concern

  1. EX - Extinct
  2. EW
  3. CR - Threatened
  4. EN - Threatened
  5. VU - Threatened
  6. NT
  7. LC - Least concern

Population trend: Stable

Year assessed: 2008

Classified by: IUCN 3.1


  1. Life
  2. Animals
  3. Vertebrates
  4. Mammals
  5. Carnivora
  6. Weasel family
  7. Lontra
  8. North American river otter