31 Jan 2019
The otter is a member of the weasel family and is known for its playfulness. It will slide down a muddy embankment repeatedly or engage in other behaviors that can only be described as having fun.
The otter population is declining as a result of continued habitat loss and being harvested for food and fur. Otters are vulnerable to water quality issues and have been known to abandon polluted lakes and streams. This has been a major contributor to the decline. In Florida they are a protected species and they are making a comeback.
Florida otters weigh 11 – 31 lbs. and males are larger than females. When they are born they must be taught how to swim by their parents. This is important because they primarily spend their lives in or near the water. They spend their inactive time in barrow or den dug out by other animals or natural hollows. The otter is capable of holding its breath for up to 4 minutes, diving as deep as 60 feet and as fast as 6 MPH. Its fur is so dense that its skin never gets wet.
As it dives, it will hunt for food. They will eat pretty much anything they can catch catfish, gar or panfish. It will also eat crawfish, horseshoe crabs, frogs, ducks and on a rare occasion muskrats and marsh rabbits. The otter is preyed upon by alligators, bobcats, coyotes and wolves.
Otters are found throughout Florida except the Keys. They are hard to spot, but are most often spotted in the early morning and at dusk. The best place to find them are in areas with multiple freshwater ponds, where you can see them crossing over from one body of water to another.
If you are lucky enough to spot them, you will most likely see a “show” they are funny to watch. But, make sure you are cautious. They are known to be very mean and even attack people.