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Northern River Otter (Lutra canadensis)

Northern River Otter


  • Adult river otters may be 125 centimetres (4.5 feet) in length.
  • Weight can be about 11 kilograms (25 pounds).


Physical adaptations to its aquatic habitat include:

  • Webbed feet
  • A thick layer of insulating fat under its short, dense fur
  • Otters have never been abundant in Alberta. Moderate numbers still occur throughout the boreal, northern foothill and Rocky Mountain natural regions.
Natural History


  • The most aquatic of "land" mammals, the river otter is well adapted to fishing in cold northern waters.
  • In the winter, otter tracks may be found along frozen streambeds where they search for ice-free holes to hunt.
  • Because of their size and habits, otters have few natural enemies.


  • Diet includes fish, fresh-water clams and other aquatic animals.

When Active

  • Is active year round.
Reproduction and Growth

Breeding Behaviour

  • Mating usually occurs in February.
  • One to four kits are born in late April, often in an abandoned muskrat den.
Conservation and Management


The northern river otter is classified as Secure in the current General Status of Alberta Wild Species report. See:

Current management


Because of their naturally low population densities, river otters are trapped under a quota system that restricts the number of animals taken by each trapper. Specific season information is provided in the current Alberta Guide to Hunting Regulations. To view the guide online or to order a printed copy, visit the My Wild Alberta website at:


Page Information

Updated: May 14, 2010