An Otter’s Winter

This week’s blog was written by Paige F., a Bass alumni. She tells about the unique ways that otters survive the winter.

As winter approaches and the days get shorter, many animals migrate to the south for warmer weather. Others undergo hibernation and sleep the days away, but some animals have the ability to stay active all winter and outlast the bitter cold. The river otter is one of those amazing animals that can last through Pennsylvania’s winters. River otters are semi-aquatic animals, meaning that they live both on land and in the water. This may raise the question of how they could live through the winter since most of their diet is comprised of fish and water freezes over during the cold temperatures. Since only the surface of water bodies freezes over, otters just need to find a way to access the water below. Getting below the ice isn’t a problem for otters, as they’ll mainly stick near rivers or steam, places with flowing water because the flowing water won’t freeze over like a lake or pond. When they don’t have access to flowing water, otters have also been known to break into beaver dams for access to water or dig up hibernating frogs for food. Otters have a special coat of fur with guard hairs to keep out the elements, and wavy underfur to trap in warm air. This special fur combined with oil to keep out water acts as a winter coat for the otters. With all the protection from the cold, otters can freely swim and dive through the icy waters. With the playful nature of river otters, they can often be seen sledding down hills on their stomachs or playing in the snow. While many animals can’t take the cold of Pennsylvania’s winter, the river otter is able to stick around because of their amazing adaptations.

While I was photographing the otters I accidentally woke one up.
Otters love swimming, no matter what time of year it is.

The photos used in this blog belong to the author.