Otters Are A Keystone Species

by OBDK on April 08, 2022

How much do you know about otters? 


You can find them almost anywhere, except for Australia and Antarctica.1 They’re members of the Mustelidae family – in fact, they’re the only members of that species that are serious swimmers.1&2


You can find two otter species within the United States: 1&3 

  • North American River Otter
  • Sea Otter


You’ll find otters in wetlands, lakes, rivers, and the ocean.1&2 While many otter species will live their lives on land and in the water, sea otters don’t. They give birth in the water while other otter species will give birth in a den on land.4 


Otters play an important role in the environment. They’re a keystone species, so they influence the balance of their ecosystems. They help maintain biodiversity and keep sea urchin populations in check, which in turn helps kelp forests stay healthy.3 


These animals also face threats from both natural predators and human activity. Natural predators are:2

  • Caimans
  • Killer Whales 
  • Sea Lions
  • Anacondas 
  • Monitor Lizards
  • Birds of Prey


Humans have caused their numbers to decline due to habitat destruction and trapping. Legislation and reintroduction efforts have helped with a comeback, but only the North American River Otter is considered to have a stable population.2&4 


Preventing things like oil spills, pollution, and deforestation can help otters survive and thrive.2 


Ready to learn more? 


Every week we bring you deep dives on owls. Catch up on some of the latest: 


Then explore even more with our owl pellet activities! Check out our online Sherlock Bones activity or do a hands-on dissection with a pellet pack. 

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