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What Do Otters Eat [20+ Foods They Feed On]

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Otters are cool animals that belong to the same family as weasels, badgers, and minks

They love to play and are really good swimmers because of their sleek bodies and webbed feet. 

Otters live near rivers and oceans all around the world. 

They eat a lot of different things, from plants in the spring to whatever they can find in the winter. 

They’re good at adapting to different environments. 

In this blog post, we’re going to talk about what otters eat throughout the year, including what baby otters like to eat, the different kinds of otters and what they prefer to munch on.

And we’ll also discuss how they hunt for food and make baby otters. So let’s get started and learn more 

What Do Otters Eat Throughout The Year?

otters swimming

Most otters love to eat fish like salmon, trout, bass, pike, carp, and eels

They also enjoy snacking on crayfish, crabs, and shrimp, using their strong claws and teeth to crack open the shells.

Otters also munch on mollusks like clams, mussels, snails, and freshwater bivalves.

Sometimes, they’ll even snack on insects such as beetles, dragonflies, and water bugs, though bugs aren’t their favorite.

When it comes to amphibians, otters like to gobble up frogs, toads, and salamanders, especially if they find a lot of them in their area. 

Now and then, they might grab a bird like a duckling or a chick, but it’s not a big part of their diet.

In places where fish are hard to find, otters might turn to munching on small mammals like mice, voles, and rabbits

They’ll even eat reptiles like turtles, snakes, and lizards if they come across them.

Even though otters are mainly meat-eaters, they sometimes eat aquatic plants, especially if they’re low on prey or need help with digestion. 

And some types of otters, like the Asian small-clawed otter, enjoy a bit of fruit now and then to mix things up.

Otters Eating Patterns  Across Various Seasons

As we mentioned earlier, otters’ diets change with the seasons. 

In spring and summer, when the weather warms up, fish are everywhere, making them the top choice for otter meals.

Crustaceans are also easy to come by during these months, offering otters lots of protein and calcium. 

Amphibians, waking up from hibernation, become easy targets for otters during this time too. 

Plus, with more bugs buzzing around, otters might snack on them once in a while.

But when autumn and winter roll in, things change. 

As fish prepare for the cold months ahead, otters go after bigger fish to store up energy for winter. 

With fish getting harder to find, some otters might switch to hunting small mammals

Molluscs, like clams, might become more common as water levels shift in autumn.

Depending on where they are and what type of otter they are, some might still find amphibians in winter.

Winter is tough for otters. Frozen waterways make finding food hard. 

But otters are smart—they scavenge for dead animals and look for open water to hunt. 

Sometimes, they even raid nests for eggs and young ones. 

It shows how clever otters can be when times are hard.

Learning about what otters eat all year helps us understand what they need to stay healthy and how they adapt to their environment. 

Now, let’s talk about what baby otters eat and how it helps them grow and stay healthy.

The Diet of Baby Otters

The diet of baby otters, known as pups, primarily consists of their mother’s milk during their early stages of life. 

Otter mothers produce rich and nutritious milk to nourish their offspring.

Around the age of 4 weeks, pups, driven by curiosity and instinct, begin exploring solid foods provided by their mother. 

These may include small, soft pieces of fish, crustaceans, or mollusks

Fish becomes a big part of their diet, giving them the protein and fats they need to be active. 

Pups learn by observing their mother’s hunting and foraging techniques, gradually honing the skills needed to become independent eaters.

Mealtime becomes a fun learning experience, with baby otters playing and practicing their hunting skills with their siblings and mother. 

By the time they reach 3 months old, they are fully weaned and their diet becomes more diverse, depending on what foods are available locally.

By the time they’re 6 months old, baby otters are good hunters and can find their food. 

They change what they eat based on the time of year and what’s close by. 

Otters are always interested in new foods, so they make sure they eat what they need to stay healthy in their watery world.

So, what baby otters eat is important for them to grow and be healthy while they live in the water.

The Various Species of Otters & Their Diet

1. River otters

Known scientifically as Lutra lutra, thrives in the rivers and lakes of Europe, Asia, and Africa.

Their diet primarily consists of fish, although they also enjoy feasting on small creatures such as crustaceans, frogs, and birds

Remarkably, these adept hunters consume up to a quarter of their body weight each day.

2. Sea otters

Sea otters, or  Enhydra lutris, inhabit the coastal regions of the northern and eastern Pacific Ocean. 

Their culinary expertise lies in consuming a variety of sea creatures like sea urchins, clams, crabs, and mussels. 

Their intelligence shines through as they employ rocks to crack open the tough shells of their prey, a behavior typically associated with primates.

3. Giant otters

Scientifically known as Pteronura brasiliensis, prefers the company of South American rivers, wetlands, and forests. 

Their preferred delicacies are sizable fish, particularly relishing species such as catfish and piranhas. 

Displaying strong social bonds, they often engage in cooperative hunting, showcasing their impressive teamwork skills.

4. Asian small-clawed otters

Identified as Aonyx cinereus, reside in Southeast Asia and have a diverse diet consisting of fish, crustaceans, and various aquatic creatures. 

Interestingly, some individuals of this species have been observed enjoying fruits like berries and bananas as part of their diet.

5. Smooth-coated otters

Smooth-coated otters, or Lutrogale perspicillata, inhabit regions of Asia, notably India and Southeast Asia. 

Their meals include fish, crabs, mollusks, and occasionally birds and small mammals.

6. Hairy-nosed otters

Scientifically referred to as Lutra sumatrana, make their homes in Southeast Asian rivers, streams, and swamps. 

While fish constitutes their primary food source, they also consume crustaceans, frogs, and other small animals. 

Tragically, their existence is threatened by habitat destruction and illegal trade.

7. Spotted-necked otters

Recognized as Hydrictis maculicollis, resides in sub-Saharan Africa, favoring freshwater habitats like rivers and lakes. 

They possess a varied diet comprising fish, crabs, frogs, birds, and small mammals. 

These adept hunters utilize their sharp senses to forage for food, often prowling under the cover of night.

8. Marine otters

Known scientifically as Lontra provocax, navigates the coastal waters of South America, spanning from Chile to Ecuador. 

While their primary sustenance is fish, they occasionally indulge in crustaceans, mollusks, and birds

Unfortunately, their survival is threatened by habitat destruction, water pollution, and entanglement in fishing equipment.

Here are a few otter species and what they eat. 

Otters are incredible creatures known for their ability to adapt to different environments and find food. 

Their diets vary based on where they live and how they hunt, which makes them interesting for scientists and conservationists to study and protect.

Knowing what kinds of food different otter species like gives us clues about what they do in their habitats and how they’ve changed over time. 

Now, let’s look at how otters catch their food to stay fed and keep their groups strong.

The Hunting Method of Otter

Otters are good at hunting. They use different methods depending on where they live and what kind of otter they are. 

Some otters, like river otters, hide near the water and quickly jump in to catch fish. 

Others, like river and sea otters, are good at chasing after their prey underwater. 

Otters also search for food along the shores, flipping over rocks and logs to find things like crabs and crayfish. 

Sea otters even use rocks to break open shellfish! Some otters, called giant otters, hunt together in groups. 

And some, like spotted-necked otters, hunt at night. They rely on their sharp senses to find food in the dark. 

These different ways of hunting show how smart and adaptable otters are in finding food in different places.

otters eating snake

The Habitat of Otters

Otters live in different places depending on the type of otter they are. 

They’re usually found near freshwater areas like rivers, streams, and lakes, as well as coastal places all over the world. 

River otters, for instance, like living in rivers and lakes where there are lots of plants and plenty of fish, frogs, and small shellfish to eat. 

Sea otters, on the other hand, prefer living along the coastlines of the Pacific Ocean, especially near kelp forests where they can hide and find their favorite foods like sea urchins, crabs, and clams. 

Otters are good at adapting, so you can also spot them in estuaries, marshes, and sometimes even in cities near rivers or ponds. 

Wherever they live, their homes provide safety, food, and the right conditions for them to have babies. 

It’s important to protect these places to make sure otters can keep living and thriving all around the world.

The Reproduction Process of Otters

Otters start their family life with a process called courtship, where males and females do things to attract each other, like making sounds, leaving scents, and playing together. 

Once they like each other, they mate, usually in the water. 

Otters have babies through internal fertilization, where the male passes sperm to the female inside her body. 

After mating, the female waits for a while, called the gestation period, before having babies.

River otters, for example, have a gestation period of around 60 to 86 days. 

Sea otters have a longer gestation period of about 4 to 12 months.

When it’s time, the female gives birth to a group of pups, often in a cozy spot near the water.

Baby otters are born unable to see and need their mom to take care of them completely. 

The mother otter feeds her pups, teaches them how to swim and hunt, and keeps them safe until they’re old enough to manage on their own, which might take several months. 

The way otters have babies is really important for keeping their species going, so it’s vital to protect where they live and make sure they’re safe and healthy everywhere they live.

Conservation Status of Otters

The situation for otters is different depending on where they live and what type of otter they are. 

Some kinds of otters are doing well, while others are struggling. 

Many otters face big problems like losing their homes due to things like pollution, too much fishing, and conflicts with people. 

The places where otters live are getting worse because of things like pollution and the water quality going down. 

Sometimes people hunt otters for their fur or because they think otters harm fish populations.

To help otters survive, people are working hard to protect their homes, restore damaged areas, and make rules to limit how much people affect otter habitats. 

Organizations and governments are telling people about how important otters are for the environment and why it’s crucial to look after where they live. 

It’s also important to keep an eye on otter numbers and put rules in place to stop things that harm them.

Overall, taking care of otters and where they live is super important not just for otters themselves, but also for keeping the water environments healthy all around the world.

Protecting otters helps make sure other animals that rely on rivers and coasts stay healthy too.

Knowing the problems otters face in staying safe shows us how important it is for all of us to work together to keep them protected. 

Now, let’s learn some cool things about otters, like their special behaviors and features that make them so lovable.

Amazing Facts About Otters 

Here are some cool facts about otters:

  • Tool Users: Sea otters are special because they use tools to crack open shellfish. They’re pretty smart!
  • Speedy Swimmers: River otters are super fast in the water, reaching speeds up to 19 miles per hour. That’s like racing speed for them!
  • Land and Sea Dwellers: Some otters live only in the ocean, while others like river otters are comfortable both in water and on land. River otters even enjoy sliding down muddy banks for fun!
  • Insulated by Fur: Unlike other marine animals, otters don’t have blubber to keep warm. Instead, they have thick fur with up to 1 million hairs per square inch!
  • Vocal Communicators: Otters make lots of different sounds like chirps, whistles, growls, and barks to talk to each other and show how they feel.
  • Family-Oriented: Giant otters, for example, love hanging out with their families. They work together to take care of their babies, showing how much they care about each other.

Holding hands:

One really sweet thing otters do is hold hands when they’re floating together in groups. 

This cute behavior, called “rafting,” helps them stick together and stops them from drifting apart when they’re resting or sleeping. 

It’s also a way for otters to stay close and keep their friendships strong within their group.

Otters like to hold hands, especially when they’re resting or sleeping, so they don’t float away from each other. 

This is something otter moms do with their babies too, to keep them safe and close. 

It’s really sweet to see how much they care about each other and how they bond together.


To sum up, otters are fascinating animals and important for the places they live. 

They help keep rivers, lakes, and oceans healthy by what they eat and how they live. 

If we learn more about what they eat, how they hunt, and what they need to survive, we can all work together to make sure otters stay safe and happy for a long time.


How long do otters live?

Otters can live for different lengths of time depending on their species and the conditions they live in. 
On average, river otters usually live around 8 to 9 years in the wild, while sea otters can live longer, often up to 10 to 15 years or even more in some cases. 
However, in captivity, otters tend to live longer than in the wild due to the absence of predators and access to regular food and medical care. 
It’s essential to note that the lifespan of otters can vary based on factors like habitat quality, food availability, and overall health.

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