Today is International Otter Awareness Day. No, me neither, but it’s an excuse to write about one of my favourite animals (amongst hedgehogs, penguins, puffins, red pandas, porcupines, capybara, hamsters, rats and other creatures).
There are actually 13 different species of otter (thanks, Wikipedia). Of these, the most well-known are the Eurasian otter (native to Britain), the North American river otter, the Sea otter, the Giant otter and the Oriental Small-clawed otter. The latter two are the species most commonly found in zoos, as they’re both endangered/vulnerable in the wild. Consequently, most of my photos of otters on Flickr are of Oriental Small-clawed otters, which are smaller than their Eurasian counterparts.
The Eurasian otter is near-threatened; wild populations in Britain were critically low as recently as the early 1990s. Fortunately, as our rivers have been cleaned up, so have wild otters returned, with populations increasing. Wild otters have now been noted in every county in England.
Sea otters, whilst part of the Lutrinae genus, are rather different – they have an extra thick fur coat, and can survive for long periods in cold water. They’re only found in the northern reaches of the Pacific Ocean, and are also endangered. Pairs of sea otters will hold each others paws to stop themselves from floating apart whilst asleep, which is cute. Less cute is that male sea otters tend to be rather violent when copulating, and not just with other sea otters, or indeed live animals. A case of necrophilia with a dead husky has been noted.
Otters are quite intelligent animals and are able to use tools. Indeed, one otter was able to break open a waterproof iPhone case, ironically manufactured by a company called Otterbox. Oops.
So, this is basically my sum knowledge of otters. Happy International Otter Awareness Day.