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Do Otters Eat Fish? An Ultimate Guide to Their Fishy Diet

Do Otters Eat Fish? An Ultimate Guide to Their Fishy Diet

Are you curious if otters eat fish? Well, wonder no more, because the answer is a resounding “Yes!”

If you want to learn more about their fish-centric diet, keep reading. In this article, I’ll go into detail about how they hunt for fish, how much they eat, whether they kill for fun and more.

Get ready for an otterly interesting and informative read!

Do Otters Eat Fish?

Yes, otters primarily eat fish. Otters are carnivorous animals, and fish are the main food source for most otter species. However, due to their versatile diet, these skilled predators will eat a variety of animals, such as crustaceans, amphibians, small mammals, and even birds.

Otters come in 13 different species, and while their diets do vary slightly based on their location, most of them are essentially fish eaters.

The diet of sea otters, who inhabit the Pacific coast of North America, typically includes sea urchins, crabs, snails, and an assortment of different fish.

The river otter, which can be found in freshwater environments across North America has a diet that includes fish, birds, turtles, mammals, and other aquatic creatures.

On the other hand, giant otters that inhabit South America’s Amazon basin supplement their fish diet with prawns, frogs, snakes, and even caimans!

Despite their cute-looking faces, otters are skilled hunters. They have sharp teeth for catching prey and strong, muscular tails for propelling through the water. They also have a high metabolic rate, which means they need to eat a lot and often.

Related Article on Otters’ Diet: Do Otters Eat Ducks?

What Fish Do Otters Eat?

As previously noted, the diet of otters largely depends on their geographical location, which also determines the types of fish they consume.

With that in mind, here are some of the most common types of fish that otters have been observed eating:

  • Trout
  • Salmon
  • Minnows
  • Catfish
  • Mudfish
  • Suckers
  • Perch
  • Characins
  • Cichlids
  • Carp
  • Flatfish
  • Cod

How Do Otters Catch Fish?

Otters are voracious predators and incredibly skilled hunters that sit at the top of the food chain in nearly every environment they inhabit. These intelligent mammals rely on several abilities to capture their prey.

  • Diving

Otters are excellent divers. And while they can’t breathe underwater, they can go very deep and stay submerged for several minutes.

  • Swimming

Besides diving, their swimming skills are also exceptional. With the combination of flexible bodies, hind legs, and muscular tails, they are quite agile and fast in the water.

  • Using whiskers

Giant otters and river otters use their sensitive whiskers (hair around the mouth) to detect the movements of fish and other prey in the water, which is especially helpful in murky or dark water.

Once an otter catches a fish, it will often eat it immediately if it’s small whereas larger fish is consumed on the land. Sea otters often float on their backs and use their chests as tables to eat their catch.

Handling a live fish requires practice. Consequently, a nursing mother otter will teach her pups how to catch fish until they reach the age of one year.

In fact, many adult otters will spend on average 5 hours per day searching for food. Combine that with their natural hunting gift, and you will have a super-skilled fish hunter.

How Many Fish Do Otters Eat in a Day?

Compared to other mammals of a similar size, otters have the highest basal metabolism rate. This means they burn calories much more rapidly than humans or other animals, helping them maintain their body temperature.

Consequently, otters consume substantial amounts of food. As a matter of fact, depending on the species and water temperature, otters may eat anywhere from 15% to 35% of their total body weight daily!

For instance, North American river otters consume no more than 20% of their total body weight, which equates to approximately 3-4 pounds each day. If they are fishing for five hours, they need to consume about 0.76 pounds of fish every hour.

On the contrary, weighing up to 100 pounds, a large male sea otter can consume up to 25 pounds of food daily. If we break this down into an hourly calculation, big individuals consume approximately 5 pounds of fish per hour.

Imagine consuming a quarter of your total body weight day after day!

Do Otters Eat The Whole Fish?

Otters, armed with robust jaws and sharp teeth, typically consume fish in their entirety, starting with the head and continuing through to the fins and tail. Their powerful jaws and sharp teeth enable them to crush and consume their prey efficiently.

However, larger fish may sometimes be partially dismembered and not entirely eaten. Homeowners who keep fish in their ponds have reported finding leftover fish bones, suggesting that otters do not always consume the entire fish.

Do Otters Kill Fish For Fun?

No, otters do not kill for fun. They hunt and kill their prey out of necessity (in order to satiate their hunger) and not for entertainment or pleasure in killing.

However, during winter seasons when fish are more accessible, otters might occasionally catch and kill more fish than they can immediately consume.

This might be misinterpreted as “killing for fun,” but it’s important to understand that otters will stop hunting once they satisfy their dietary needs.

Compared to certain other species, otters do not fall into the category of “surplus killers” or simply animals that kill for fun.

Surplus killers, according to Wikipedia, include various species such as jaguars, honey badgers, orcas, lions, spiders, hyenas, and bears.

How to Prevent Otters from Eating Fish

During winter, pond fish are at significant risk of being preyed upon by otters. Trapping otters might seem like the most logical solution, but capturing these intelligent creatures is no simple task.

Furthermore, in many states, trapping otters is not permitted. This action can only be carried out during specific times of the year, as otters are a protected species.

However, there are a few additional strategies to deter otters from eating fish:

  1. If there are already dead fish in the pond, consider moving all the remaining fish to a holding pond.
  2. Strong outdoor lighting may discourage otters.
  3. Placing heavy mesh over the pond could prevent otter access.
  4. Some high-frequency sonic devices may frighten off otters.

Nonetheless, if otters consistently cause issues in your pond, you might want to consider contacting a wildlife removal company.

Closing Thoughts

In wrapping up, otters, with their diverse species and habitats, showcase a fascinating array of dietary preferences. While their menu includes a variety of creatures, fish remains the central staple. 

Whether it’s the sea otter savoring a variety of fish species off the Pacific coast, the river otter hunting in freshwater environments, or the giant otter thriving in South America, fish make up the main course in their feeding routine. 

Otters’ remarkable hunting abilities and high metabolic rates necessitate a substantial intake of food, meaning their survival, growth, and energy largely hinge on their piscivorous diet, which underscores their status as one of nature’s most proficient aquatic hunters.

In the end, if you found this exploration of otter behavior and dietary habits insightful, we have another piece that you might find equally intriguing: Do otters eat turtles?

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