North American River Otter


These otters swim by propelling themselves with their powerful tails and flexing their long bodies. They also have webbed feet, water repellent fur to keep them dry and warm, and nostrils and ears that close in the water.

River otters are members of the weasel family. They hunt at night and feed on whatever might be available. Fish are a favorite food, but the also eat amphibians, turtles, and crayfish.

They remain active in winter, using ice holes to surface and breath. They can hold their breath underwater for up to eight minutes.

Otters are very sensitive to water pollution and are often the first indicators of poor water quality.

  • Length: 3.7 ft. (males; 3.2 ft. (females)
  • Weight: 11-30 lbs.
  • Lifespan: Up to 14 years in the wild; Up to 25 years in captivity.

Click HERE for a River Otter Activity Sheet for older kids!

Click HERE for a River Otter Activity Sheet for younger kids!

Our Current Residents

Benjamin – Male, Born February, 2009 (estimated)

Amelia – Female, Born February, 2009 (estimated)

Ben and Amelia were relocated to ZooMontana in 2009 as pups due to issues with a local fishery. Neither of them knew how to swim when they arrived and the Zoo Keepers had to teach them. Ben especially enjoys training sessions with Zoo Keepers and his favorite treats are carrots, green peppers, and crayfish. Their favorite enrichment items (play things) include puzzle feeders that they have to work to open, logs from other zoo animal habitats with different animal scents, ice blocks, and feathers.

Sam - Male, Born 2018

Sam was born to Ben and Amelia and was one of the 'fab four' otters born unexpectedly in 2018. They had been abandoned by Amelia and hand raised by zookeepers. Sadly, one of them passed, while the other two are on loan at the Grizzly and Wolf Discovery Center in West Yellowstone. Sam remains at ZooMontana and has become a well know ambassador.


  • Kingdom: Animalia
  • Phylum: Chordata
  • Class: Mammalia
  • Order: Carnivora
  • Family: Mustelidae
  • Genus: Lontra
  • Species: Lontra canadensis

Animal Facts

  • Carnivore
  • Common
  • Semi-Aquatic
  • Diurnal

Our Animals