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Utah Field Guide: Northern river otters

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At one time, Northern river otters were found throughout most of Utah's waterways. Early records report regular sightings of otters. But in the mid to late 1800's Otters seem to disappear from Utah's rivers, due to habitat degradation, water pollution and unregulated trapping during settlement times.

Northern river otters are relatively large members of the weasel family. They are sleek and short-legged, with broad webbed feet. Streamlined bodies and muscular tails help them swim. Adults weigh up to 30 pounds and can be as long as 60 inches. Their coats consist of short, dense fur and vary from glossy black to light brown. Northern river otters have highly sensitive, long whiskers that help them find and capture prey.

River otters are active year-round. They often den in burrows created by other animals. Females give birth to an average of two to three young during late winter or early spring. River otters eat fish, frogs, insects, as well as an occasional bird or small mammal.

Back in 2010, about 15 river otters were captured here on the Green River and relocated to the Provo River between Jordanelle and Deer Creek Reservoirs. The aim is to reintroduce enough otters to create a self-sustaining population.

For more information on River Otters or any other critter found in Utah, remember to check our Utah Field Guide on our Outdoors page at

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