Photo of a group of river otters in the winter

Otters are cute! They are part of the weasel family along with badgers, minks, and ferrets. Otters live all over the world, except Australia and Antarctica.

River otters live along rivers and near lakes or marshes throughout North America. Sea otters live in the Pacific Ocean, along the coast from California to Alaska and along the coast of northeast Asia. There are differences between the sea otter and the river otter. Sea otters are much bigger and have shorter tails. A river otter swims mostly in fresh water, while a sea otter swims only in salt water. River otters swim in a dog paddle with their bodies submerged and their heads visible, but sea otters swim by floating on their backs. River otters have short, coarse fur, made up of 2 layers – 1 to keep warm and 1 to keep dry. Sea otters have the densest fur of any mammal in the animal kingdom. Sea otters are husky; river otters are sleek and skinny.

Otters love to eat fish and seafood. They are able to use rocks to crack open a shell and store the rock in the skin under their arms for later use. Sea otters can even eat while floating on their backs.

Photo of a river otter standing on a rock
Photo of a sea otter in the water looking into the camera
Did You Know?
  • A group of otters on land is called a romp. A group of otters in the water is called a raft.
  • Otters have webbed feet that make them excellent swimmers.
  • There are 13 different types of otters, all different sizes and shapes.
  • For centuries, otters have been hunted for their beautiful fur. Some species are endangered because of this.