Three otter species in a row! Truly, we are in a magnificent section of the mustelid alphabet.
The Spotted-necked Otter (Hydrictis maculicollis) is a smaller otter species that can be found in the lakes and rivers of sub-Saharan Africa, as far south as South Africa, with the range extending east to Ethiopia and west to Guinea Bissau. Other names for the Spotted-necked Otter include the speckle-throated otter, referring to the pale patches on the otters’ throats covered in unique patterns of dark brown spots.
Spotted-necked Otters can grow up to 30 inches (76 cm) in body length, not including the tail. Adult males weigh approximately 14 pounds (6.5 kg), while females are smaller at 10 pounds (4.7 kg). Their coats are usually a shade of brown, and there is typically a white or pale patch on the chin and throat, giving the Spotted-necked Otter its common name. Its webbed feet and muscular tail are ideal for agile maneuvering through the water.
The diet of the Spotted-necked Otter consists primarily of different kinds of fish, which vary depending on the otters’ specific habitat. In seasons or areas where fish are more scarce, potential prey includes crustaceans and amphibians. Adult Spotted-necked Otters typically hunt on their own, even though they have been observed to live in family groups of up to 20 individuals. Hunting techniques include sharp-angled dives and twisting their flexible bodies to put their teeth in the best position to snatch prey.
Spotted-necked Otters spend much of their time in the water, and they are most active during the day. At night they shelter in dens dug along the shore, or rock cavities and thickets. Breeding seasons depend on the specific area of the range, and female otters will give birth to litters of one to three pups after a gestation period of three months. The pups are born completely helpless, and remain with their mother for their first year of life.
Due to its overall healthy population, Spotted-necked Otters are considered to be a species of least concern by the IUCN. But there are perfectly suitable habitats within its range in which the Spotted-necked Otter is not present at all, and it’s unclear as to why that is. Possible reasons include the introduction of fish species that may be out-competing the otters in those particular habitats, or human persecution for being perceived as a rival to fishermen. Spotted-necked Otters are themselves preyed upon by crocodiles and eagles.
Source for all images used in this post.