More River Otter Scat

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River otters (Lontra canadensis) are predators. They eat a wide variety of prey that they can catch in their aquatic environment. The prey items can be identified by examining the scats (droppings) left behind by the otters. Otters are known to leave their droppings in scent posts, or latrines. These are areas that are frequently used by multiple otters. An otter passing through may leave its mark by depositing a scat in the latrine. This lets other otters know it has been there. The same sites are frequently used over and over by otters. Sometimes they will develop new latrine areas, possibly in response to intrusion in their sites by humans. One latrine site I monitored for several years was not used in 2009 due to an increase in human activity there during the early part of the summer. The otters may use this site again next summer if people stay away from it.

Otters also create scent mounds. These consist of leaves, sticks, grasses, and other materials that are scraped into a mound. The otter then will deposit scent on the mound, in the form of urine or scent from its glands. You may also encounter a slide, where the otters frequently slide into the water below. This can be well-worn, or just an area that the otters use occasionally.

When you are tracking otters, remember to look for these other signs of their presence. Animals leave more signs than just their tracks, so keep an eye out. For safety, it is also not recommended that you smell the scats. Some animals do carry parasites that can be spread by this kind of close contact with their scats. Look, but don't touch.

River otter scat. Photo copyright Kim A. Cabrera 2009.

This latrine used by river otters contained over 16 individual scats when it was found. It was used throughout the summer. When winter comes, the river level rises significantly, washing away all signs of the otters' activity. They simply use other locations when that happens.

River otter scat. Photo copyright Kim A. Cabrera 2009.
A close-up of an otter scat.
River otter scat. Photo copyright Kim A. Cabrera 2009.
Otter scat found in the latrine seen in the first photo.
River otter scat. Photo copyright Kim A. Cabrera 2009.

This older scat is becoming dried out. The material making up the scats usually doesn't hold up well, as do scats of other mammals. Consequently, the scats of otters often dry out and fall apart easily.

River otter scat. Photo copyright Kim A. Cabrera 2009.

There are several individual scats here. The summer these were found, there were several groups of otters living in the vicinity. There was one group that consisted of a mother otter and two pups. The other group consisted of three pups who were alone, with no adult otter traveling with them.

River otter scat. Photo copyright Kim A. Cabrera 2009.
If you look closely at this otter scat you can see the exoskeletons of dragonfly naiads.
River otter scat. Photo copyright Kim A. Cabrera 2009.

Another latrine site used by multiple river otters. This is how otters communicate their presence to others of their species.

River otter scat. Photo copyright Kim A. Cabrera 2009.
Remains of crayfish and other species in an otter scat.
River otter scat. Photo copyright Kim A. Cabrera 2009.
These appear to be possibly small bones, or parts of insects.
River otter scat. Photo copyright Kim A. Cabrera 2009.
This otter's diet varied. There are exoskeletons as well as what appear to be bones in this one.

Photos Copyright 2009 by Kim A. Cabrera


Learn More about River Otter Tracks and Signs on these pages of this site:

NEW: Watch an otter eat a fish from four feet away in this exciting video clip!
Click here for the River Otter Photo Gallery and small videos
See more River Otter Tracks and Signs here
Learn to identify River Otter Scats Page 1
Return to main River Otter Tracks and Signs Page



Find otter posters, greeting cards, t-shirts, hats, and more in my new store.

Now available: "Animals Don't Cover Their Tracks - An Introduction to Animal Tracking" on CD! (Version 3.0) New drawings, more species, more photos, more extensive sections on tracking humans, more detailed directions for plaster casting, mystery tracks section, tracking stories section, and more. The CD features over 100 species, including special bonus sections with the tracks of some African and Australian animals. A large section on tracking lost people for search and rescue is included, with over four pages of photos showing the details of tracks and signs people leave. Easy to use format. This web site is limited by bandwidth, but the CD-ROM is not. The CD is available in my online store at:  Works with Mac or PC. Happy tracking!!

What else can you find in the nature store? Beartracker's animal tracks coloring book, T-shirts, sweatshirts, journals, book bags, toddler and infant apparel, mouse pads, posters, postcards, coffee mugs, travel mugs, clocks, Frisbees, bumper stickers, hats, stickers, and many more items. All with tracks or paw  prints, or nature scenes. Custom products are available. If you don't see the track you want on the product you want, email me and I can probably create it. Proceeds from all sales go to pay the monthly fees for this web site. You can help support this site as well as get great tracking products! Thank you!


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Also visit these fine stores for more products of interest:

NDN Pride shop - For Indian Pride items for all tribes. Custom items available on request.

ASL Signs of Love - For anyone who uses or is learning ASL, American Sign Language. Custom name items and more are available here.

Get Every Child Outdoors (Get E.C.O.) - My shop dedicated to nature and getting kids interested in nature and the outdoors.

Sales from all stores give commissions to Beartracker's Animal Tracks Den, which helps keep this site online as a free service. We are celebrating ten years online this year!




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Copyright 2009, 2010. By Kim A. Cabrera


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