Mammals of North Carolina:
their Distribution and Abundance
North American River Otter - Lontra canadensis
Mustelidae Members:
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Photo by: Tom Snow
Distribution In NC, it occurs across the entire state, but is of spotty occurrence in much or most of the mountains and Piedmont. It is likely absent from some such counties in the western half of the state.

Occurs over most of North America, from Alaska to Newfoundland, and south to FL, TX, and CA; however, it is absent now in much of the southern plains and the desert region.
Abundance Otters are found primarily in the Coastal Plain, where they can be fairly common to locally common around estuaries, lower portions of rivers, large creeks, and canals -- in the Tiedwater area and eastern Coastal Plain. Farther inland, they are uncommon to fairly common in the remainder of the Coastal Plain, generally uncommon in the eastern Piedmont, and rare to locally uncommon farther westward. During historical times, it was more widespread, but it has declined greatly in the 20th and 21st Centuries, though it is making a comeback in some places.
Seasonal Occurrence Occurs year-round.
Habitat Otters, as is well known, are strictly in habitats associated with water, primarily fresh, but also in brackish and rarely salt water situations. Favored habitats are lakes, large ponds, canals, and edges of estuaries.
Behavior Otters spend most of their time in shallow water, but at times come on land, primarily to move to new ponds or canals. They forage in the water. They are active in both day and night, but are most active near dawn and dusk.
Comments Otters are among the most enjoyable mammals for the public to observe, as they are somewhat uncommon, and they are often curious, as well as quite energetic/active. The increase in reservoirs, farm ponds, and beaver ponds in the past few decades has probably resulted in a turnaround in numbers, and otters are likely on the increase now in the state.
Origin Native
NC List Official
state_status
fed_status
S_rank S4
G_rank G5
subspecies Lontra canadensis lataxina, Lontra canadensis canadensis

L. c. lataxina occurs throughout the Coastal Plain and Piedmont, whereas L. c. canadensis is apparently the form in the mountains.

other_comName River Otter, Northern River Otter
synonym Lutra canadensis
NC Map
Map depicts all counties with a report (transient or resident) for the species.
Click on county for list of all database records for species in that county.