Here in Seattle, we love our scrappy local River otters. River otters are the most common mammal in the Northwest marine environment, more common than Harbor seals, California sea lions, or even Orcas! While not federally protected like their Sea otter cousins down in California, River otters play an important role in keeping our rivers and inland waterway habitats healthy. Here are some facts on River otters:
1- River otters are part of the weasel family and are also related to badgers, martens, ferrets, minks and wolverines.
2- River otters can be albinos. While most River otters are usually brown or black, they occasionally can also be white.
3- River otters are amazing swimmers, diving to depths of up to 60 feet and staying submerged for up to eight minutes. River otters are able to close their ears and nostrils to keep water out.
4- River otters can live up to 9 years in the wild. They become sexually active after 2 years and females can produce multiple offspring.
5- River otters live on land. Unlike their ocean dwelling Sea otter cousins, River otters will forage near the shore for clams and mussels, or swim out to find fish.
In West Seattle, River otters usually live in the steep slopes behind Harbor Ave SW, and come down to the beaches at sunrise and sunset to hunt for food. They are very smart, seldom getting hit by cars or encountering people. Divers can sometimes catch a glimpse of a River otter heading to or from the shore as they put on dive gear.
Feeling lucky? Want to try and catch a glimpse of these stealthy and interesting animals? Try a day or night guided tour today!