NEBRASKAland

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NEBRASKAland Magazine is dedicated to outstanding photography and informative writing with an engaging mix of articles and photos highlighting Nebraska’s outdoor activities, parklands, wildlife, history and people.

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8 NEBRASKAland • JANUARY-FEBRUARY 2017 A Mammal Brief By Lindsay Rogers The river otter (Lontra canadensis) is the largest member of the weasel family in Nebraska, ranging from 35-52 inches long. It weighs from 11-30 pounds, with males weighing more than females. Several Nebraska species look like the northern river otter, including mink and beaver. Although they're also in the Mustelidae family, mink are significantly smaller. The range of the northern river otter extends throughout Canada and the United States. They are found along waterways, lakes and wetlands. In Nebraska, river otters can be found along all major river systems. River otters are opportunistic and will eat foods that are most available. Fish make up the greatest portion of the otter's diet, followed by crayfish. Other foods include amphibians, insects, small mammals and birds. In clear water, river otters use their excellent swimming ability to capture fish by sight and direct pursuit. In murky water, they use their whiskers to locate prey by movement. River otters communicate using several methods. Vocalizations include chirps, growls, whistles and screams. They also communicate through scent marking using a pair of scent glands located at the base of their tails. And finally, they communicate through body language, including touch and posture. River otters tend to be active at night, although in undisturbed areas they may be active during the day. Anyone fortunate enough to observe an otter in the wild will not likely forget its playful, inquisitive nature or its graceful swimming ability. ■ GRIER PHOT HOTO BY O BY BOB G Lindsay Rogers is an outdoor education specialist with the Nebraska Game and Parks Commission.

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