It is the time of year during which we all say what we’re thankful for, and I’m thankful for otters.
The Neotropical Otter (Lontra longicaudis) can be found in the forests, llanos, savanna and pantanal of Central and South America, which is the widest distribution of any otter species in the world. It is a hardy and adaptable species, able to live in a variety of habitats, which can include cold mountain lakes and rivers, sugar cane and rice plantations, wastewater treatment plants, swamps and brackish waters close to the coast.
Neotropical Otters have proportionally-long tails, almost a third of their total length. Adults can grow up to 59 inches (150 cm) from nose to tail, and weigh about 33 pounds (15 kg), with males being a little larger than females. Their coats are dark brown to gray-brown, with paler color around their chin and throat. Their tails are long and wide, and contribute significantly to their swimming agility. Neotropical Otters can close their nostrils and their ears when they submerge.
The diet of the Neotropical Otter consists primarily of different kinds of fish and crustaceans. They will occasionally take small land mammals if they can get them, but the vast majority of their prey species are aquatic.
There are currently six recognized subspecies of Neotropical Otter:
- Lontra longicaudis longicaudis
- Lontra longicaudis annectens
- Lontra longicaudis colombiana
- Lontra longicaudis enudris
- Lontra longicaudis incarum
- Lontra longicaudis raferrous
Breeding season for the Neotropical Otter typically occurs in the spring, and the normally solitary otters seek out mates. Males play no part in the raising of pups, and females prepare nests and give birth to litters of one to five pups after a gestation period of about 56 days. The pups are born with their eyes closed and are fairly helpless for the first few weeks of life. They will start to venture outside of the den when they’re about five weeks old, and they start to swim at about 10 weeks.
Neotropical Otters are still hunted for their pelts, in spite of being put under legal protections during the 1970s when excessive hunting extirpated the Neotropical Otter from parts of its historical range. Today, however, the biggest threat to Neotropical Otters is loss of habitat through human development and industrialization, water pollution, and increasing ranching activities. These otters have been known to steal fish from fishing nets and are sometimes seen as pests, although captive Neotropical Otters have been trained to fish for humans.
Source for all images used in this post.