River Otter

River otters have incredible adaptations for life in the river. Learn about some of them, and the three otters who live at The Wild Center and their own stories of how they came to swim in the Adirondacks.

Otters live in water and the thick fur keeps them warm. There may be as many as 500,000 hairs per square inch (humans, not counting bald ones, average around 2,200 hairs in the same space). Otters were historically found throughout New York and other northern states in the U.S. Unregulated harvesting for their fur before 1936, water pollution and loss of habitat lead to their decline and a 9 year moratorium on trapping allowed otter populations to recover in the Adirondacks and Catskills. But otters were not seen in Central and Western New York. In 1995 an otter reintroduction program was initiated. 279 otters were live trapped in areas where they were plentiful and were relocated to 18 locations throughout the state. In 2000 baby otters were seen in those areas and the reintroduction appeared to be working as populations expanded and the program was stopped. The NYS DEC would like to know if you have seen otters or signs of their activities; email them at: mailto:fwwildlf@gw.dec.state.ny.us

The Adirondacks is a great place to see otters in the wild. During the winter, if you come to The Wild Center, you might see some at dawn or dusk by the causeway heading south out of Tupper Lake. The Raquette River flows under the bridge and there is often open water there and staff have seen otters catching fish and eating them on the ice.