Meet otter-One of earth’s most playful animal


sea otter picture


The Playful Otter


Otter are among earth’s most playful animals.

They seem to take delight in sliding on their bellies, either down snow-covered slopes or wet riverbanks.

They play tag and engage in mock combats.

They are not averse to including other animals—dogs, raccoons or foxes—in their endless games.

The common otter of Europe is much like the otter inhabiting North America, though the European variety is smaller.

Both are superb swimmers.

An otter is said to travel in water at a rate of some 10 miles (16 kilometers) per hour.

Usually three humps are seen above water when the animal is swimming—the head, the back and the end of the tail.

A family group of otters swimming in line has at times been mistaken for a sea monster.

Both the North American and the European otters are also at home on land.

Despite short legs, otters can overtake a running man.

They may travel some 15 miles (24 kilometers) during a night.

There is a record of one otter that was chased for 28 miles (45 kilometers).

These creatures are well equipped for swimming.

The strong tail functions as an excellent rudder and enables the animal to glide into the water without making a big splash.

An otter may swim with all four legs drawn up against its body.

When that is the case, the tail provides propulsion.

Or, the otter may swim by rapidly moving its large, webbed hind feet.

The youngsters, however, do not automatically take to the water.

Writes Francois Bourlière in The Natural History of Mammals:

“Liers [a North American authority on otters] informs us that young otters do not enter the water of their own accord but are dragged in by their mother, who pulls them by the skin of the neck and catches small prey (crayfish, frogs, and little fish) to lure them on. Moreover their first attempts at swimming are awkward, the young learning little by little to swim properly.”—P. 189.

For the common otter diving is no problem.

This creature is capable of diving 40 feet (12 meters) below the surface and may stay underwater for about four minutes.

It can swim underwater for as much as one fourth of a mile (.4 kilometer).

Simply amazing is this animal’s sense of direction.

It may get into a frozen river through a break in the ice and thereafter has no trouble in finding its way back to the opening.

Though usually concentrating on smaller fish and other water creatures, an otter may tackle a fish weighing as much as 20 pounds (9 kilograms).

This is quite a feat, considering that this is about the weight of the otter itself.

To catch fish, the animal uses its forepaws.

The otter’s fur is ideally suited for its existence.

The outer layer consists of long coarse hair, whereas soft, woolly fur makes up the underlayer.

When in water, the outer layer adheres closely to the body, compressing the dry underfur.

Air trapped in the underfur provides excellent insulation, keeping the skin dry.