North American River Otter (Lontra Canadensis)
Otters are an interesting example of how one action (reduced beaver trapping outside the Park) can have an impact on a completely different species. Let us explain: Otters were extirpated from the area prior to the establishment of Riding Mountain National Park. They have only recently returned because of an odd connection – the price of beaver pelts has gone down. Otters are curious, and as such are easy to capture, even accidentally, and otters were regularly caught in some of the many beaver traps set 20 years ago around RMNP. Thus, otters were prevented from returning to the Park. Over the last two decades, however, the price for beaver pelts has slumped, and far fewer trappers are targeting beavers. This has allowed otters to come in from other areas to recolonize the Park.
RMNP uses wildlife cameras to track otter numbers and look for evidence of successful reproduction (this video is of a female and her two nearly-grown kits). Watch for otters along the little rivers and streams in RMNP - you never know where they will show up!
Five fun facts about otters:
- There are two otter species in North America: river otters and sea otters
- Pups are introduced to the water at about two months old
- While underwater, they can close their nostrils and ears to keep water out
- They have a varied diet, feeding on animals such as crayfish, clams, fish, insects, and amphibians
- They are very playful and love to slide on mud or snow on banks and hills