River Otters

Photo courtesy of US Fish & Wildlife Service

 

One of the most fun-loving furry critters in Long Lake is the River Otter, sometimes fondly referred to as a ‘Stick Tail.’ We lake residents are very fortunate to have this mammal as one of our entertaining neighbors as otters are mainly located only in the northern portion of Wisconsin.

Not to be confused with the muskrat, who swims in a straight line displaying definite purpose, otters are very playful. According to the Wisconsin DNR they like to wrestle, chase other otters, and play capture and release with live prey. In winter they will take three or four bounding steps and then slide across the snow for 5 – 15 feet.

The otter’s diet is an aquatic mixture of fish, birds, and vegetation. After diving for food they resurface, float on their backs and use their tummy as a dining table. You will see them just laying there munching away on their delectable harvest.

For homes, otters use abandoned beaver lodges, hollowed out logs, or brush piles. The mama otter will give birth to two to four pups in April or May after a one year pregnancy. Babies are born about 4.5 inches long, furry, with their eyes closed for about a month. In eight to ten weeks, they are ready to hit the water. After turning one year of age, otters leave the family in search of a territory to call their own. Due to their voracious eating habits, an otter needs to claim a territory as large as three square miles.

Interesting Facts
Measurements: length: 2 – 4 feet; weight: 44 – 82 pounds; tail length: 1 – 1.5 feet

Life Expectancy: 10 – 15 years

Extra Tidbits: largest member of the weasel family; makes high-pitched scream when fighting or mating and will snort when confused or surprised; can dive to depths of more than 40 feet!