Two species of otters live in the United States: the North American river otter and the sea otter. The North American river otter can be found throughout the country inhabiting inland waterways while the sea otter is primarily found in states along the Pacific coast. A member of the weasel family, otters are semiaquatic animals that feed on insects, fish, amphibians, small reptiles, and shellfish.


Otters have streamlined bodies with rounded heads and thick, tapered tails. Sea otters can grow up to 5 feet long and weigh in excess of 60 pounds while river otters are usually around 4 feet lengthwise and weigh up to 30 pounds. Both species have brown to reddish-brown coats, webbed feet, and dense fur that helps them swim and stay warm. The thick whiskers of the animal aid in foraging for food, as do their retractable claws.

More information on what an otter looks like.

Otters are often confused with beavers.


Found wherever there is access to water, otters often live in marshes, swamps, rivers, and lakes. River otters tolerate various climates and environments, making homes in both warm and cold locations as well as at differing elevations. Their dens typically have underwater entrances and tunnels leading to nests. Sea otters spend the majority of their time in the water, only occasionally coming ashore to rest. They may shelter in abandoned beaver dams, but they do not build dams.


Are otters known to enter homes or yards?
Typically, otters will not enter homes or yards unless they are in close proximity to the animal's natural habitats. Nevertheless, as is the case with any wild animal, it is possible for otters to find their way into areas inhabited by humans when in search of food.

Signs of Activity


Do otters harm people or property?
Major damage is caused when otters take up residence in ponds or fisheries as these locations provide the animal with constant access to food. Their feeding may create imbalance in pond ecosystems or cost owners of fisheries significant sums of money in losses. The animal is also dangerous as they bite and claw at humans when they feel threatened or cornered. Additionally, otters can contract certain diseases that are transmittable to cats and dogs. River otters may also carry parasites like nematodes, roundworms, and tapeworms, as well as bacterial diseases such as salmonellosis and tuberculosis.

Control and Safety

In order to keep otters out of private ponds and fisheries, property owners may construct wire fences. Additionally, building walls along the shore makes it difficult for otters to exit bodies of water, which effectively traps the animal until removal is possible. Barring entry to potential den sites under porches, sheds, and homes can also keep otters away from human lodgings. Avoid contact, because like many wild animals, they can transmit rabies.

Trapping and Removal

As otters are wild animals, attempts to trap or employ lethal control methods are considerably dangerous. Instead of recklessly handling problems without aid, contact Critter Control technicians. Wildlife removal specialists have the proper training, knowledge, and equipment to remove and humanely relocate otters that become nuisance pests.