Say hello to North American river otters on World Otter Day!

Otters by Brent West

Otters by Brent West

Today (May 27) is International Otter Day, created by the International Otter Survival Fund to raise awareness of their work protecting, conserving, and caring for otters everywhere. Environment Michigan shares five great things about Michigan native otter, the North American River Otter:

1. They’re good fishers
Otters spend most of their life around water, and fish typically make up the majority of their diet. These members of the weasel family travel vast distances along waterways and over land to fish other areas. They’re good explorers, often setting up multiple dens away from their homes to find the best fishing spots.

2. They’re good swimmers
River otters’ sinuous, streamlined bodies and long tails propel them through water with ease. They can turn on a dime while swimming, and hold their breath underwater for up to eight minutes. With populations in nearly every state in the U.S., their thick, warm and waterproof coats allow them to swim in very cold environments.

3. They have fun
River otters are playful animals, and as far as we can tell, they’re often having a good time — swimming, fishing, sliding, wrestling, chasing each other, and just generally having a blast. We hope to be so lucky this summer!

4. They play a key role in aquatic ecosystems
River otters need clean, watery habitat with plenty of prey, so they are a key indicator of the health of a waterway. River otters are not found in highly-polluted watersheds.

5. When we appreciate river otters, we also appreciate clean water
In the face of pollution and uncontrolled development, river otters were once eradicated from many portions of the country. Conservation, re-introduction efforts, and national legislation like the Clean Water Act have helped bring them back from the brink.

Though river otters have returned to much of their historic range, their overall population today is estimated at only 100,000. To protect the river otter, we must protect our rivers, lakes, and streams from pollution and destruction. River otters give us just one more reason – a very cute reason – to stand up for our waterways.

Brett took this way back in 2010. See more in his Random photo album.

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