Sea Life

What’s the Difference Between River Otters and Sea Otters?

The River otters and Sea otters are one of the cutest sea creatures you’ll see in the oceans of the world. Though you might confuse both and think of them as one specie, that’s not true. We agree that both show affectionate behavior but both of them are quite distant from each other. Let us share some of their unique features with you so you can identify both correctly.

What is River Otters?

With a total of 12 species in the world, river otters are mammals that prefer both rivers and oceans as their home. The most commonly found species of river otter is the North American River Otter, which is found all over the coastal areas of North America. You can see them usually gliding down the muddy hill or on the snow with their bellies.

River Otters

They prefer to enjoy life in the rivers but they also move to land sometimes usually to mate. That’s why they are called semi-aquatic organisms.

What are Sea Otters?

An inhabitant of the North Pacific Ocean, the sea otter is a marine mammal of which only one true specie is found in the world. As the name suggests, they prefer to live in the seas and do not swim toward rivers at all. Just like river otters, they also sometimes pay a visit to the land to take some rest.

Sea Otters

They are known for their floating behavior in the seas and it has been observed that they give birth to one pup at a time and take care of it for 8-12 months.

Difference Between River Otters And Sea Otters

Here are some differences between the cutest otters to tell them apart.

FeaturesRiver OttersSea Otters
GenusLontraEnhydra
Number of Species12 species1 specie only
HabitatFresh and saltwater rivers and seas as wellSaltwater seas only
Size3-4 feet3-5 feet
Weight15-20 pounds20-80 pounds
Physical AppearanceSmall feet, large tail, sleeker furLarge feet, shorter tail, thicker fur with white markings
DietCrabs, mussels, birds, bird eggs, amphibians, large aquatic beetles, small mammals, snails, crayfishSnails, abalone, clams, urchins, crabs, mussels, starfish, scallops, fish, barnacles, worms, octopus
Lifespan9-12 years12-15 years
Number of Offsprings2-3 pups1 pup at a time
Mating PatternMate with multiple partnersMate for life with one partner
Social BehaviorLive in solitaryLive in small or large familial groups
Swimming PatternSwim on their bellies with most of the body submergedFloat or paddle through sea using their webbed feet
Conservation StatusNorthern American River Otter (Least Concerned), Other species are either Endangered or Near ThreatenedEndangered

The Final Word

River otters and sea otters share a fair deal of differences in terms of size, weight, physical appearance, lifespan, habitat, and number of offspring. River otters have a total of 12 species living in the oceans, while sea otters only have one species that needs to be conserved as it has been enlisted as Endangered by the IUCN.

About the author

Yumna Ahmad

An experienced content writer, photographer, and avid reader amazed by the sea world and its creatures. I am letting people become fascinated with the ocean planet through my writings.