The North American River Otter is the only river otter found north of Mexico. Hunting (trapping), pollution and habitat loss have reduced the population of North American River Otters to fewer than 100,000. Recently, improved water conditions, conservation initiatives and habitat reclamation efforts have allowed the numbers to increase, and it is not uncommon to see them in Illinois.
River otters spend much of their time in the water, looking for fish to eat (they also eat crustaceans, mollusks, insects, birds, frogs and other animals they can find). Because of this, they have oil-coated, waterproof fur, and webbed feet to help them swim. They can also close their ears and nostrils, to keep water out!
River otters can be found near lakes and streams, and in wetlands in all states and Canadian territories. They will live in a variety of habitats, as long as there is water, with abundant food.
River otters are very playful animals and can often be seen playing games. Social groups are typically made up of adult females and their pups. However, there are also groups of individual males. River otters are most active at night.
There is currently one North American River Otter at Phillips Park Zoo. She lives in an enclosure near the entrance to the zoo, and can be seen playing in her water pool in the morning and early afternoon (usually).