River otters are cute little creatures whose antics make them all the more captivating. You could watch them for hours without stopping to wonder whether they're omnivorous or not. You've seen videos and images of otters eating clams, fish and similar seafood fare, but there's more to these little mammals' diets than the meat lover's buffet.
Omnivorous Diet in Captivity
River otters who live in captivity, like the ones at the Oakland Zoo in California, get their meals served to them without the benefit of filling out a menu preference card. Typically zoo otters are fed between two and four times daily with fish, horse meat, boiled eggs, chicken or crayfish and a side of vegetables. At least twice each week otters in captivity are supplemented with vitamin E to help maintain healthy coats, and depending on the health of the otters, some zoos also supplement with a multivitamin.
Otter Food in the Wild
In the wild a river otter's diet is just as varied as those kept in the zoo, although a wild otter's food leans more towards the carnivorous. A wild river otter eats fish, crayfish, amphibians and will occasionally hunt down a bird or other small animal like a muskrat, beaver or rabbit.
Discriminating Otter Palate
Otters usually forage for the slower-moving fish like carp or suckers, but once an otter has developed a taste for a specific species of fish, those are the ones it searches out. Even if their fish of choice is dwindling in numbers, river otters will still concentrate their efforts on finding the type of fish they crave.
River otters are social creatures who don't mind banding together to seek out a quality food source. If a few come upon a school of herring, for example, the whole group, friends and family alike, will gather to feast on the find. Nutritious and succulent fish otters crave travel in schools large enough to feed a romp of otters, so the team effort in locating those schools is an ideal arrangement.
- Blue Planet Biomes: River Otter
- Oakland Zoo: North American River Otter
- Naturalist's Guide to Canyon Country; David B. Williams and Gloria Brown
- The Natural History of Canadian Mammals; Donna Naughton
- Oxford Journals: Sociality in River Otters: Cooperative Foraging or Reproductive Strategies?
- Field Guide to Marine Mammals of the Pacific Coast; Sarah G. Allen, et al.
- Summary of Husbandry Guidelines for North American River Otters in Captivity; M. Owens, et al.
Elle Di Jensen has been a writer and editor since 1990. She began working in the fitness industry in 1987, and her experience includes editing and publishing a workout manual. She has an extended family of pets, including special needs animals. Jensen attended Idaho and Boise State Universities. Her work has appeared in various print and online publications.