Different Otter Species Around The World

Did you know that there are 13 species of otter around the world? I didn’t until I embarked on this little research project, and I hope you find it useful! I’ve trawled all the available otter resources I could find and have put together this guide to the different types of otters. I’ve tried to keep it concise and accessible, because you can actually go into a lot of depth with Otter classification. It’s apparently quite complex! 

Eurasian otter

The Eurasian otter is native to Europe, Asia and some of North Africa. In the United Kingdom this species of otter was almost wiped out by the 1950s. Loss of habitat, and water pollution both played a part in the decline of the Eurasian otter. Luckily their population has begun to rise again in recent years.

The Eurasian otter typically grows to between 1 and 1.3 metres in length and weighs between 7-11kg. Its diet consists mainly of fish, but it will also eat frogs, birds and occasionally small mammals.

These otters live a fairly solitary life. Otter pups stay with their mothers until they are around 15 months old, before striking out alone.

Eurasian otter

European Otter (Lutra lutra) – Bernard Landgraf

Hairy-nosed otter

The Hairy-nosed otter is native to SouthEast Asia. It is one of the rarer species of otter, and as a result not a great deal is known about them. Hairy-nosed otters live in Mangroves, reed meadows, along coastlines and in flooded forests.

Adult otters weigh between 5-5.9kg. As their name suggests, their noses are hairy.

The species is officially endangered, and as such protected from hunting and trading. Unfortunately that does not deter poachers and illegal hunters.

There is only one Hairy-nosed otter in captivity. He was rescued by fisherman, and lives at a wildlife centre in Phnom Penh, Cambodia. www.wildlifealliance.org/wildlife-care/

Hairy Nosed Otter

The hairy-nosed otter (Lutra sumatrana – Rigelus

Japanese otter

The Japanese River Otter was officially declared extinct by Japan in 2012. The last official sighting of a Japanese River Otter was in 1979, in the city of Susaki.

Their population once reached into the millions, but sadly their numbers dwindled due to poaching, and changes in their natural environment.

Japanese Otter

Japanese river otter, Hamura Municipal Zoo, Tokyo – Hiroshi Kibe

Spotted-necked otter

The Spotted-Necked Otter is native to Africa. It is found in lakes and rivers, and only does not live in salt-water areas.

They vary in length from 57 to 76cm, and weigh between 3 and 6.5kg. Their name is derived from the white patches they display on their neck and chest.

These otters tend to live alone, but will spend time in small social groups at certain times of the year. Pups stay with their mothers until they are around a year old.

Spotted Necked Otter

Spotted-necked otter (Hydrictis maculicollis) – Derek Keats

The Smooth-coated Otter

The Smooth-coated Otter is native to India and SouthEast Asia. It can live in freshwater or saltwater. If living in saltwater it still needs a freshwater supply nearby.

These otters weigh between 7 and 11kg, and measure between 96 and 107cm in length. They have a more rounded head than other otter species. Their fur is short and smooth, and unlike other otters, their tail is flattened.

The Smooth-coated Otter has been known to hunt in groups of up to 11 otters.

smooth-coated otter - Lutrogale perspicillata

smooth-coated otter, Lutrogale perspicillata – Mike Prince

North American river otter

Unsurprisingly, North American River Otters are native to North America. They live in lakes, rivers and along coastlines. Sometimes this species is also referred to as the northern river otter or common otter.

These otters can weigh anywhere between 5 and 14kg and measure between 90 and 120cm. Their fur is thick, to protect them in cold water.

North American River Otters live alone, coming together to mate. Pups will stay with their mothers until they’re around 10 months old.

North American River Otter Species

North American River Otter –  Anja Keicher

North American River Otter Species

North American River Otter –  Anja Keicher

Southern river otter

The Southern River Otter is native Chile and Argentina. They are known to frequent both freshwater and saltwater areas. They make their homes in densely forested lakes and rivers.

These otters weight between 5 and 10kg, and measure up to 120cm lagoons.

Male otters of this species live alone, while Mothers live in family groups with their young.

I’m sorry, this is the only image I could find! It’s a stuffed one… in a museum.

Southern River Otter

Butterfly voyages – Serge Ouachée

Neotropical otter

The Neotropical otter is native to Central America, South America, and the Island of Trinidad. Their natural habitat varies wildly. They are happy living in swamps, clear fast-flowing rivers, rainforests, estuaries, shorelines, and even wastewater treatment plants.

These otters can weigh between 5 and 15kg, and measure between 80-150cm.

Male otters live alone, and female otters care for their pups alone.

Neotropical otter

2006. Tomada en el zoológico de Corrientes, Argentina – Carla Antonini

Marine otter

The Marine otter is native to South America. They live along shorelines.

These otters weigh between 3 and 5kgs and measure between 85 and 115cm.

A fairly solitary animal, Marine otters tend to live alone, and are known to socialise in groups of up to 3 otters. Pups stay with their mothers until they are around 10 months old.

Marine Otter Species

Marine otter (Lontra felina) at Huachipa Zoo in Lima, Peru. – Sakura1994

Giant otter

The Giant otter is native to South America. They mostly live along the Amazon river, and in The Pantanal.

These otters are significantly larger than all other otter species, and weigh between 26 and 35kg. It can grow up to 240cm from nose to tail.

Giant Otters are very sociable animals and live in groups of between 3 and 8. These family groups are made up of parents and their offspring.

Giant Otters

Giant Otters,  Charles J Sharp – www.sharpphotography.co.uk

Giant Otter Species

Giant Otter swimming – www.Araguaia.org

Asian small-clawed otter

The Asian small-clawed otter is native to South and SouthEast Asia. They live in rivers, creeks, mangrove swamps, wetlands and Rice paddies. There are a few variations on the name including: oriental small-clawed otter or short clawed otter.

These otters weigh between 2.5 and 4kg. They measure between 75 and 96cm.

This species of otter is the smallest in the world. They are very sociable, and live in extended family groups of around 10 or 12. This group is always headed up by a single breeding pair. Both parents help to raise their pups.

Asian Short Clawed Otters

Asian Short Clawed Otters – Sarah Shaw

Asian Small Clawed Otters

Five Sisters Zoo; Lyndsay Gilday 2018

African Clawless otter

The African Clawless Otter is native to South Africa. They can be found near freshwater or saltwater, but need a source of freshwater nearby. They tend to live in areas near dense foliage.

These otters weigh between 10 and 36kg. They measure between 110 and 70cm in length.

This species of otters live solitary lives, only coming together for mating.

African Clawless Otter

African Clawless Otter – Mark Paxton

Sea Otter

The Sea Otter is native to the pacific coastlines of North America, and Asia. It spends most of its life in the water.

These otters can weigh anywhere between 14 and 45kg. They measure up to 120cm in length.

Sea Otters

Sea Otters –  Keran McKenzie