Distribution of Lontra canadensis in British Columbia. (Click on the map to view a larger version.)
Source: Map courtesy of the Province of British Columbia (2008).
The River Otter is a semi-aquatic member of the Weasel Family about the size of a bassett hound that is easily recognizable by its long thick body, short legs and long thick tail (Hatler et al. 2008). The coat is brown, although the undersides are usually grayish.
River Otters are mostly active between dusk and dawn but can be seen during the day. They are very playful and often used slides. They also often 'porpoise' (swim near the water surface, undulating in and out of the water (Hatler et al. 2008). We have watched this behaviour in the Squamish estuary on a foggy day.
River Otters are found throughout British Columbia, and occupy much of their original pre-European settlement range (Hatler et al. 2008).
Although there is no genetic evidence to support them, 3 subspecies are reported for British Columbia: 1) Lontra canadensis mira (most of coastal BC), 2) Lontra canadensis pacifica (mainland of BC east of the Coast Mountains, 3) Lontra canadensis periclyzomae (Queen Charlotte Islands) (Hatler et al. 2008).