What do otters eat?

In this brief article, we will answer the question, “What do otters eat?” and provide information on how an otter hunts, whether they eat based on hierarchy, the diet of pet otters as well as their hunting time.

What do otters eat?

Otters eat reptiles, fish, crabs, and crayfish. River otters mostly eat animal matter. Some of the commonly consumed foods by river otters would include crabs, frogs, fish, crayfish, snakes, birds, eggs, and turtles.

The diet of otters would vary depending on where they live. Sometimes, otters would hunt in groups wherein their diet would mostly consist of piranhas, cichlids, catfish, and caiman.

The river otter found in North America would eat salmon, suckers, and trout. Some of them even target larger fish as they are not as swift in movement as some smaller fish. Occasionally, these otters would eat plant-based matter too. 

Otters found in the sea consume 25 percent of their body weight. This makes them heavy eaters. Sea otters would commonly eat sea stars, clams, crabs, snails, squids, and mussels. Octopuses, crabs, and worms are also eaten by them.

The diet of different otters is given below:

  • Congo clawless otters would eat frogs, eggs, and small animals on shores.
  • Asian and clawless otters prefer to consume snails, crabs, mollusks, crabs, and frogs. They do not eat fish.
  • Smooth otters primarily prey on larger fish as they are not as agile as smaller fish.
  • Eurasian otters eat fish, salamanders, and frogs.

How does an otter hunt?

Otters adapt to hunting in extreme environments. The whiskers present in otters would help them to navigate themselves toward prey.

The webbed feet of otters aid them in movement. It also helps them to lunge on prey to stun and kill them. The sharp teeth would aid the otters to kill prey.

River otters hunt mostly in rivers and lakes but they can hunt on river or lake shores too. The female otters hunt for their pups too whereas the male otters hunt only for themselves.

The thick fur of otters helps in keeping them warm even in colder weather. This can aid them in hunting even in extreme cold. Otters also have a higher metabolic rate which keeps them further warm.

Sea otters hunt only in water and do not hunt on shores. Sea otters can swim to the bottom of the seafloor and look for leftover food from bigger fish or other animals. Webbed feet of otters can aid them in swimming.

Sea otters are particularly intelligent. If they have a hard shell of an invertebrate, otters would sit on top of shells and open them using rocks. Otters can also smash shells against larger rocks to break them open.

Otters have small pockets in their body which are located right under their forearm. Leftover food would be stored in those pockets and consumed later on.

The hunting techniques can vary based on the types of otters. For instance, clawless otters use their paws to catch prey whereas river otters use their mouth to catch prey. 

Sea otters catch prey with their forepaws and bring prey to the surface. They would then consume food on the water surface.

Otters can hold their breath in water which can help them to hunt too. Sea otters can hold their breath for 5 minutes. On the other hand, river otters can swim for 8 minutes underwater without breathing.

Do otters eat based on hierarchy?

Yes, otters do eat based on hierarchy. Larger and dominant otters would eat more food and also take away prey from smaller otters. Smaller otters survive on leftover food left by dominant otters.

When do otters hunt?

Bigger otters and sea otters hunt during the day. Clawless otters are nocturnal. River otters hunt both night and day. However, they are more active at nighttime.

If they are not hunting, otters would sleep. They can be found grooming each other during resting periods too.

Otters, more specifically river otters, would travel far just to obtain prey. Some of them even travel up to 20 miles to obtain food.

The time period of hunting can be 3-4 hours for a male otter. For a female otter, hunting can go up to 7-8 hours especially if she has pups.

What do pet otters eat?

The diet of otters can vary but make sure to include meat in their diet. Include small fish, veggies, insects, and eggs in their diet. You can give them cat food initially too.


In this brief article, we have answered the question, “What do otters eat?” and provided information on how an otter hunts, whether they eat based on hierarchy, the diet of pet otters as well as their hunting time.


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