River Otter (Lontra canadensis)

‘In Your Back Yard’ series

By Meghan Doran, Assistant Education & Recreation Manager

Photo by volunteer Rob Blair, near the Ohio & Erie Canal Towpath Trail

A true comeback kid, the river otter is one of Northeast Ohio’s largest mammals. Weighing around 25 pounds, river otters can eat a wide variety of fish and other aquatic creatures. This agile mammal can travel up to 15 miles on land if need be, but loves to chase, dive and tumble through streams.

Years ago, during settlement of Ohio, otters were hunted for their silky, thick fur. Evidence of otters being used for tools and fur had dated back to times of the Hopewell Indians. American Indians and early settlers in the Connecticut Western Reserve traded these water-resistant pelts in order to survive the cold temperatures they endured. The wetland systems in this region were home to plentiful wildlife, including the river otter, until the mid-1800s. Extirpation was a direct result of over-hunting and habitat loss.

Near the Towpath Trail: an otter close-up photographed by volunteer Bob Roach, and two otters photographed by volunteer Tim Hite

Today, after many years of struggling to find suitable habitat, river otters are playing happily in several Summit Metro Parks areas. You may find them at the Pond Brook Area of Liberty Park or the Tinkers Creek Area that connects to Pond Brook. These and other areas provide the high-quality watershed habitat otters need to hunt and breed.

Otter scat can be filled with shells from crayfish and mussels, like these droppings found along Pond Brook in Liberty Park.

Keep your eyes open for otter scat, webbed tracks and the animals themselves at Liberty Park and along the Cuyahoga River valley. You can also learn more about these awesome critters at naturalist-led programs throughout the year.

Photo by volunteer Rob Blair, near the Ohio & Erie Canal Towpath Trail

All About Otters

Tuesday, August 23, 7–8:30 p.m.
Liberty Park/Pond Brook
Join a naturalist for a hike on the Buttonbush Trail in search of these playful water-lovers.

Other Programs You ‘Otter’ Check Out in the Pond Brook Conservation Area


This story was originally published in Green Islands Magazine, Summer 2016