The dietary habits of wildlife can be fascinating and mysterious. After all, there is no such thing as a quick trip to the supermarket for all but the most affluent animals. River otters, for example, consume a diet heavy in fish and other types of seafood. Mammals, river otters are carnivores.
Meat, Meat and More Meat
River otters thrive on a diet that consists of fish and lots of it. Other common river otter dietary staples include crayfish, geese, muskrats, ducks, aquatic beetles, beavers, snakes, freshwater mussels, turtles, crabs, rabbits, worms, rodents and various kinds of amphibians, such as frogs and toads. Essentially, river otters enjoy eating meat from many different sources. When a river otter consumes a bird, it's usually because the bird was wounded in some way.
Although river otters by and large prefer meat, they scavenge a lot, too, and eat different things they find including blueberries, roots and aquatic bulbs. River otters just aren't very finicky, dietwise.
Apart from different types of meats and the occasional plants, river otters also eat eggs once in a while, as well -- particularly fish and bird eggs.
Types of Fish
Fish is, for the most part, the river otter meal of choice. The mammals seek out varieties of rough fish that travel slowly and that are usually between 4 and 6 inches in length, according to the Washington Department of Fish and Wildlife. Some specific examples of fish river otters prefer include suckers, stickle backs, bullheads, mud minnows and carp.
River otters that reside in zoo atmospheres typically eat diets that consist of a combination of meat, fish, eggs and various vegetables. Smelt is a particularly common river otter meal in zoos.
A river otter's whiskers are extremely handy in the quest for food, particularly in murky waters. Since the face whiskers of a river otter are particularly receptive to direct contact, the mammals are usually capable of tracking down food even in the midst of especially difficult and dark conditions.
- The SeaDoc Society: River Otter Diet and Predation Project
- Washington Department of Fish & Wildlife: River Otters
- National Geographic: North American River Otter
- Defenders of Wildlife: North American River Otter
- ESF Adirondack Ecological Center: River Otter
- New York State Department of Environmental Conservation: River Otter