Otters are cute, curious, intelligent little creatures that can be more entertaining than annoying. However, if left to their own devices, they can create quite the stench around any space because they leave decomposing pieces of food and piles of feces in their wake. They also consume a large amount of food, mainly fish, daily, so they can be quite a nuisance to fishermen and private land owners.
The best way to get rid of otters is by trapping them. The traps used can either be lethal or non-lethal. They need to be strategically set at a location that is frequented by the otters. This includes otter slides, at grooming locations, along the tracks they leave in the mud, or in the shallow waters they swim through. However, in most cases, one does not even have to resort to trapping them. Simply blocking the otters’ access to their food source or burrows will usually take care of the problem. This can be done by building a steel fence to keep them out of areas where they are not wanted, or, in places with fish ponds, simply installing surface fencing to protect the fish.
Otters are very smart creatures that will see right through any decoys and repellents that you lay out for them, which is why traps are the only things that work against them. This is why a good understanding of an otter’s habits will go a long way in helping you determine how best to get rid of them.
How to Get Rid of Otters in a Pond
Otters love fish. This is why they will invade hatcheries and ponds whenever they can. They are simply drawn to food sources, and when they discover that a particular location has it in abundance, they will flock there. They eat large amounts daily, so if you have a pond where fish are plentiful, otters can significantly harm the population. It is for this same reason that they can be quite problematic for fishermen.
Common river otters are not that large. They usually grow to about 3 or 4 feet and weigh about 25 pounds. Compare that to giant otters that can grow to 5.9 feet,or sea otters that can weigh up to 100 pounds.
There are several signs you can use to tell whether or not otters are present at a particular location. You will usually see grooming flats, embarkment slides, and large waste mounds. You can also tell where otters travel through a lot because they create pathways through mud and shallow waters. Sometimes, you will know otters are present because you will be able to see them. All otters have webbed toes, very short legs, a long tail, and a small, flat head.
A great way to prevent their invasion in the first place is to install a fence around your perimeter. If fencing is not an option, trapping is the next best thing. You will need to carefully place the traps along paths that the otters frequent. The correct location and the correct amount of water are the two key things that determine how successful a trap is.
There are several types of traps that have been designed for otters. Generally, they can be divided into three categories: body grip traps, paw hold traps, and live cages.
Because otters are so smart, and if you are looking for a humane approach to trapping and releasing them, your best options are either a spring load trap or a gravity trap. Gravity traps allow you to roll the trap on its top side and release the otter after you have captured it without even touching it. However, it is a good idea to wear gloves because otters can become quite aggressive when trapped and may claw and bite at you.
Spring load traps, on the other hand, have to be opened manually. To release the otter, you will need to first cover up one end of the trap to hide yourself from the otter’s view, then open the trap up manually while wearing protective gloves. When you cover part of the trap up, the otter will move to that direction and cower and hide there. This will give you the chance to move quickly, open the trap up, and release it.
Otters are not picky eaters. Which is why you can use anything from fish to cat food to fruits and corn as bait food. However, the best bait food is fresh pungent fish. Place a generous amount in the trap to increase your chances of success.
Once you capture an otter, make sure to release it in an area with a lot of food if you do not want it coming back. Find a pond or a river and release it there. Also, examine the otter from afar first before approaching the trap. If it looks sickly, confused, or if it is foaming at the mouth, call a professional because it is likely a rabid otter. Rabies is extremely contagious and dangerous to mammals, humans included.
You may need to make trapping a routine practice, trapping them once or twice every year until you completely get rid of them.
When in doubt, it is always a good idea to engage the services of a professional exterminator or pest control company.
How to Get Rid of Otters in a Boathouse
Sometimes otters will invade private spaces such as boathouses, mobile homes, tall decks, and sheds. As long as there are gaps underneath it, otters will gladly seek shelter there.
Usually, the otters will not live under these structures, unless it is a very nice space and there is no better location closer to the water. Instead, they will turn these spaces into grooming areas, eating spaces, or communal bathrooms.
If you want to get rid of them, the best method to use is by trapping them. You can bait your traps with oils from other otters or potent-smelling fish.
If your boathouse is over a body of water, you will need to employ and under-water trapping technique. Leg-hold traps are the most common method for live-trapping otters in water.
Make sure to set the traps in areas where otters frequent. You can place them in otter slides, at grooming locations, along the tracks they leave in the mud, or in the shallow waters they swim through.
Certain states have strict regulations that govern the trapping of otters. Some of them have trapping seasons and others dictate the types of traps that can be used. Be sure to familiarize yourself with these rules and regulations before attempting to trap them yourself.
How Do You Keep Otters Out of Your Yard?
Sometimes, otters invade yards, especially if your home is near a river, stream, or any significant water source. If the house is perched on the bank, otters will make use of the embankments.
Otters are intelligent communal animals. They have designated bathroom areas where every member goes, which is why you will often see a large pile of otter droppings collected in one central location. They also have designated grooming sites. The main downside to this behavior is that in many cases, the otters will pick a location close to your home for this purpose, leaving you to deal with the stench.
When otters become a nuisance, you can get rid of them in one of two ways: live-trap them and relocate them or lethally trap them and remove them. Whatever type of trap you choose to use, its placement is the most important thing. So place the trap along a route that the otter frequents. Great spots are otter slides, grooming locations, along the tracks they leave in the mud, and in the shallow waters they swim through. Be sure to do it cleverly and in a way that does not draw attention from them.
However, there are a few strategies you can employ before the situation gets too complicated. You can:
- Build a fence around your yard. Make sure part of the fence is buried at least a foot underground and sticking up at least two feet to make sure the otters can’t go over or under it.
- If you have a garden where fruits or berries fall to the ground, clean them up soon after they fall. The smell of ripening fruits will usually attract otters.
- If you have otters living under your house, you can force them out. First, you need to find all the access points to their burrows. Plug these all up, leaving only one exit open. Next, sprinkle some floor around that one entrance. This will help you see their foot prints to make sure they have left. Next, take a rag and soak it in ammonia. Ammonia is harmless to otters but smells extremely unpleasant to them. Throw this rug into the hole and they will abandon that burrow. When you confirm that they have all left, simply plug the final exit to make sure that no other otter comes to claim it.
- If none of these solutions prove effective, you may have to call in a professional. Pest removal experts will know how to handle the situation and to humanely relocate the otters to a place where they will no longer be a nuisance.
If you catch a live otter yourself, try to make sure you relocate it to an area of public land with a sizeable body of water. Otters consume a lot of food, so a small pond with a small fish population will not sustain them for long.
Also, make sure to remove the means that they can take advantage of to access the space. For example, when you fence your yard, otters will have no choice but to stay out. The same strategy can be applied to any space. If you have a boat in moorage, putting up some form of barrier and removing the ladder access will do the trick. If you have a house with a deck close to a lake or pond, simply boarding up the area below deck or covering it up with mesh will do the trick. Seal off areas that they will likely want to acess and you will not have an otter problem.
Are Otters Intelligent?
Otters can use tools from a very young age. Recent research has shown that otters and their ancestors have been using rocks as hammers for millions of years. This makes them one of the few mammals other than primates to have this ability.
Plus, it seems they are born with this ability and need no one to teach it to them. Orphan pups in captivity still use tools without any training, and wild pups develop the ability to use tools before they are weaned.
With proper training, otters can play basketball, stack cups, and can even use vending machines. An otter at the Seattle Aquarium can even use an inhaler unaided.
Do Otters Smell?
Otters are cute little creatures, but they smell really bad.
They produce a strong odor from their anal glands, and their droppings are especially stinky. Perhaps this is why if otters invade your home, you will do everything in your power to get rid of them, because the smell is almost unbearable. And that’s not even considering the fact that an otter can die underneath your house in a hard-to-reach crawl-space and fill your entire home with the stench of decay.
So why do they smell? Well, otters, like many mammals, communicate with other members of their species through their scents. This is called scent-marking. Normally, otters mark areas that they circuit, usually near banks, at intersections of two bodies of water, or on land near prominent objects such as decks. You may see the otter rolling on the ground and matting down vegetation, then scraping away anything that can absorb the scent before squirting urine and defecating.
Otters have very well-developed anal scent glands. These produce a very pungent odor, and they anoint their feces with this odor to communicate with other otters that may come to that location after them.
When a family of otters picks a latrine site, you will recognize it by the flattened vegetation, a huge dropping pile, and a strong fishy odor emanating from its general direction. The main idea behind creating these big dropping piles is to maximize the spread of their scent by the wind.
Can Otters Get Fleas?
Otters can get affected by a number of parasites, including external ones such as fleas, ticks, and lice.
Since they spend most of their lives in water and wet areas, they are very susceptible to a large number of parasitic infections. Some internal parasites that affect otter include roundworms, tapeworms, flukes, spiny headed worms and sporozoans, which are a type of protist. They also have to deal with several protozoan parasites that cause intestinal illnesses and a parasite called toxoplasma gondii, which is found in feline fecal matter and causes brain inflammation and death.
Where Do Otters Nest?
A group of otters is called a romp. They live in nests called holts.
Romps of otters spend most of their time in water, playing energetically and looking for food. To make their holts, they typically repurpose the abandoned burrows of other animals and convert them into their dens. To do this, they will accent the space with some nesting materials, making the burrows extra cozy for their kits.
Female otters are the ones who typically decorate the nest. They will shred local vegetation and moss, small sticks and tree bark and use that to make their nests warm, dry and soft. Once they deliver their pups, the pups will stay in the nest for anywhere from 8 to 10 weeks before they can finally learn to swim and hunt.
Typical otter dens have two entrances, one underwater and the other above ground. This means that when the need arises, the otter can make a quick aquatic escape. Ideally, the underground entrance should slope up to a flat and dry area, and this is where the main nest will be located. They can also take advantage of log jams which create natural rooms that an entire family of otters can live in.
Otter den locations need to be near water sources. This is why otters usually build their dens along water edges and riverbanks. However, sometimes suitable shelter near the water can be hard to come by. When this happens, otters will venture about ½ a mile away from the water and build their nests in a suitable location there.
This means that if there are human structures close to the water’s edge, such as boat landings and decks, otters will take advantage of this fact and build their nests there if they have to.
When necessary, otters will dig their own burrows and build their nests from scratch. However, most of the time they will just simply take over another animal’s burrow. Otters can be quite aggressive, and will even force other animals out of their burrows and move into them. They will take over the homes of badgers, foxes, muskrats, rabbits and beavers. They particularly love beaver dens, and will even live alongside beavers if they have to.
Can Otters Dig?
Most otter species can dig their own burrows if they have to. Usually, they will build these burrows close to water sources with two entrances, one to the water and the other above ground.
However, some otter species do not dig burrows. The cape clawless otter chooses to make its burrow under boulders, ledges, in driftwood, and in vegetation tangles. Cape clawless otters are native to Africa and can be found in almost every country south of the Sahara.
What is an Otters Favorite Food?
Otters love eating. They can eat almost 20% of their body-weight every day. A large male sea otter can eat up to 11 kg of food a day. They eat this much because they have very high metabolic rates. This is how they generate the body heat they need to stay warm.
The feeding habits of otters vary greatly depending on species, location, and time of year or season.
River otters love fish, frogs, crayfishes, crabs, and other aquatic invertebrate creatures. In the wild, they mostly consume non-game fishes, so the competition with game fishers is low. Otters can also eat birds, rabbits and other rodents.
Giant otters live on a diet that almost exclusively consists of fishes and crabs.
Cape clawless otters and Asian small clawed otters love frogs, crustaceans, crabs and mollusks. They also enjoy the eggs of larger creatures.
Sea otters feed almost exclusively on slow moving fishes and invertebrates like crabs, clams, snails, sea urchins, abalones, and mussels. The food preferences of sea otters will usually vary among individuals, just like in humans.
When two or more otter species occupy the same area, their food preferences will differ. They can even go as far as one species being exclusively marine while the other being freshwater.
Do Otters Hibernate?
Otters are semi-aquatic animals that do not hibernate. However, their habits change slightly when winter comes. Otters are nocturnal creatures, but they become diurnal in winter, becoming active during the day and sleeping at night. They will even slide across the ice to get from one place to another.
During winter, river otters will take advantage of openings in ice and even break through beaver dams to get to water sources. One third of their winter diet is comprised of crayfish. Otters have some of the densest fur in the animal kingdom, which is what they take advantage of to stay waterproof and warm during winter.
Do Otters Get Cold?
Most otters live in and around very cold water. For example, sea otters spend most of their lives in water that is 35 to 60 degrees Fahrenheit, a temperature that is too cold for humans. Therefore, they have no choice but to keep warm.
They do this in a number of ways. Otters do not have any blubber. Instead, they have some of the thickest furs in the animal kingdom. This fur is waterproof and very warm, and it serves them well in the cold waters. Their fur is made up of two layers. The outer layer consists of long hairs that keep the underfur dry. The underfur, on the other hand, is extremely dense, effectively insulating the otter.
Additionally, otters have very high metabolic rates. Their bodies are at a constant temperature of 37 degrees Celsius, or 100 degrees Fahrenheit. This is almost double that of the water around them. To maintain this temperature, they have to eat about 15 to 25% of their total body weight every day.
Apart from that, otters will also do flips and summersaults in water, rubbing their bodies to trap air bubbles in their fur. These bubbles keep their skin dry in the water while also providing some extra insulation.
Otters, however, have very little of their precious fur on their paws. This means they will lose heat rapidly through them when they are submerged in water. They conserve some of this heat by keeping their front paws above the water and their hind paws folded over their abdomens when they are resting and floating.
Can You Kill an Otter in Florida?
Otters are protected animals in Florida. However, in some cases, for example if they destroy property, they can be killed.
Otter attacks in general are very rare. This is because otters are not usually aggressive, and being very shy animals, they usually prefer to flee as opposed to fighting when confronted.
Although otter attacks are highly unusual in Florida, they do occur once in a while. In most cases, the otter would be a female trying to protect her llitter, or a rabid otter that needs to be put down.
Are Otters Poisonous?
The platypus, solenodon, shrew, vampire bat, mole, hedgehog, and the African crested rat are the only venomous mammals in the world today. Otters are definitely not part of that list. However, although they are cute and playful, otters can also be aggressive and dangerous when they have to be.
Otters can also contract rabies, although this is extremely rare. They are less likely to contract rabies than dogs, cats, skunks, and raccoons. However, when they do have rabies, they will become extremely aggressive and attack humans, other otters, and other animals and therefore need to be put down.
Mike Zhang. Founder of FamilyLifeShare