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Indiana Department of Natural Resources

Dept. of Natural Resources

Fish & Wildlife > Wildlife Resources > Animals > River Otter River Otter

Introduction

River otters (Lontra Canadensis) are now found throughout most of Indiana, thanks to efforts of the DNR and its partners. In 1995, the DNR began a reintroduction program aimed at re-establishing a healthy otter population in several watersheds of northern and southern Indiana. After five years of reintroductions, the otter population began to expand through natural reproduction. The otter was removed from the state-endangered species list in 2005. Since that time, otters have been documented in more than 87 percent of Indiana counties, far surpassing reintroduction goals. The population continues to expand.

General Characteristicsriver otters

  • Otters have a long body, short legs and muscular neck.
  • Fur color varies from light brown to almost black.
  • Otters have long, thick whiskers and webbed feet.
  • Weights range from 11 to 20 pounds.
  • Otters can hold their breath for 8 minutes.
  • Their fur repels water.
  • Otters are most active at night and at dawn and dusk.

Distribution and Abundance

Reproduction

Cumulative Distribution
of River Otter
in Indiana, 1995-2013
river otter distribution map

River otters are polygynous (have several mates). Most females and males will start reproducing at 2 years old. Otters typically breed from December to April and gestation is 61-63 days. Otters also delay implantation at least 8 months, meaning birth may not occur until 10 to 12 months after copulation. Litter size is typically one to three kits, however they can range up to five. The female otter raises the young without aid from the adult males. Young can leave the den within eight weeks of birth.

Management and Control


River otters and human conflicts
  • In 2013, the DNR received 86 otter damage complaints, up from 34 in 2011. 
  • The Division of Fish & Wildlife anticipates river otters will continue to increase in numbers and expand its range, elevating the likelihood of more frequent nuisance complaints.
  • The Division of Fish & Wildlife will continue to use management tools to resolve nuisance river otter complaints as they arise.
Management

The Division of Fish & Wildlife shall provide for the protection, reproduction, care, management, survival and regulation of wild animal populations regardless of whether the wild animals are present on public or private property . . . [and] Organize and pursue a program of research and management of wild animals that will serve the best interests of the resources and the people of Indiana (Indiana Code Title 14, Article 22, Chapter 2, Section 3)