River otter underwater


The North American River Otter

The North American river otter is a lively, inquisitive creature. North American river otters are freshwater animals found throughout North America in rivers, streams, lakes and ponds. Otters are inquisitive, playful and intelligent, often appearing to take childlike enjoyment in sliding around on muddy banks or in snow. They are semi-aquatic mammals and live around water edges.

North American rive rotter

Family and Diet

The river otter is in the family Mustilidae, which also includes ferrets, skunks, weasels and sea otters. Fish is a favored food, but they also consume various amphibians, such as frogs and crayfish. Instances of river otters eating small mammals and occasionally birds have been reported as well.

Conservation Status

North American river otters are not endangered, although their range has been reduced significantly by habitat loss and environmental pollution, to which they are highly susceptible. Reintroduction projects are helping to stabilize the reduction in the overall population. Today, river otters are seen more frequently in residential neighborhoods and other populated areas.

The peak mating session is in March and April. During this time, river otters will travel more often and are more territorial. The total gestation period for a female otter is from 9.5 to 10 months which includes a period in which the embryo remains undeveloped. This holding period is called delayed implantation and it assures that the pup is born during the best time of the year for survival and allows the female to get into good physical condition. A female river otter may bear a litter each year. The average litter of river otters is two to four pups. Female otters will nurse their young for three to four months before they are weaned onto solid food.


Walle the otter looking up


Species: North American river otter (lontra canadensis)

Sex: Male

Age: 6

Diet: Capelin, Lake Smelt, and Feline Diet

Arrival Date: 11/19/2012



Walle was rescued from the wild as a very young otter. His rescuer raised him on his boat and thought he was doing the right thing by keeping him as a pet. As Walle continued to grow and develop, his caretaker recognized that caring for a juvenile otter was much more intense than a regular household pet and assumed that if Walle were placed back into the wild, he would resume life as a normal otter. Much to his caretaker’s dismay, Walle returned to the boat. What his caretaker did not know was that North American river otters must learn survival skills from their mothers and family group. Walle’s caretaker realized that Walle would continue to return, so he was transported to a rehabilitator in Gainesville, FL. Shortly after that, Clearwater Marine Aquarium received a call from the Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission asking if Walle would be able to reside at the aquarium with our other otters under the care of our training staff members.

Prior to coming to CMA, Walle was transported to Homosassa State Park and was put under quarantine to be sure he was not harboring any diseases or parasites. During this period, staff members were sent to the park to familiarize themselves and begin building a relationship with Walle.

New Home At Clearwater Marine Aquarium

Walle did not possess any diseases or parasites and on November 19, 2012 he was transported to CMA.  He took to his new environment well and began exploring immediately. We continue to work on training basics with Walle and he is progressing quickly as he is a very active and curious otter. Look for Walle at the Otter Oasis when you visit.

Cooper the otter


Species: North American river otter (Lontra canadensis)

Origin: St. Petersburg, Florida

Sex: Male

Age: 15

Diet: Capelin, Lake Smelt, Feline Diet and Carrots

Arrival Date: 7/21/2001



On July 21, 2001, Clearwater Marine Aquarium rescued a young male otter found in a private citizen’s garage in St. Petersburg, Florida. The young otter was named “Cooper” after longtime CMA supporters Tom and Sarah Cooper.

Paralysis and Rehabilitation

Cooper was severely dehydrated and emaciated at the time of his rescue. An extensive physical revealed more serious injuries. Cooper had sustained abrasions and abscesses along his back, worn footpads and nails and partial paralysis in his rear legs. It was speculated he had been hit by a motor vehicle. Throughout his rehabilitation process, he regained some mobility in his hind legs. He has permanent damage to his vertebra, which prevents him from walking properly, so he did not make a good candidate for release. Without being able to move around efficiently, he would have become an easy target for predators, such as coyotes, bobcats and alligators.

Special Habitat

Today Cooper is doing well and is able to move around a habitat that has been modified to meet his needs. He seems to enjoy rubbing on his blankets and spending time arranging them, as he would have done in the wild to arrange grass or leaves. The Marine Mammal Department has implemented a program that will allow the trainers to examine Cooper daily as well as provide exercise and stimulation.

Hours icon


Daily Presentations:

11:00am – River Otters
1:00pm – River Otters
3:00pm – River Otters

Presentation times are subject to change.

map icon


Otter Oasis

Walle & Cooper

Animal Encounter

Trainer for a Day

Assist with dolphin and otter care for a day such as food preparation and animal enrichment.

Dolphin webcam

Watch Live Webcams of Winter, Hope, Nicholas, Otters and Sea Turtles!


Spectrum Duke Energy Coca-Cola Bay Star Allegiant