UNDERWATER WINTER: Otters

During the winter, river otters face extremely difficult survival conditions, but somehow manage to get through the season with their playful spirit intact. I’m Jim Metzner, and this is the Pulse of the Planet, presented by the American Museum of Natural History.

ambience river otters

We’re listening to the sound of a river otter, recorded up close and personal

“The otter has made some important tradeoffs in terms of dealing with winter.”

Biologist Peter Marchand:

“It has sacrificed, for example, the advantages of communal lodging or nesting, living with others, grooming with others, sharing food with others. And it has traded away, in a sense, the ability to store large amounts of fat for improved insulation. The trade-off appears to be an enhanced ability to get into small places and to hunt effectively — to get underneath the ice for the one resource that it’s most dependent upon during the wintertime, and that is fish. If the otter cannot get below the ice — it’s really onto hard times, because it is not very adept at hunting on land, especially in deep snow. And will in all likelihood, starve to death.”

As grim as wintertime may seem for the otters, they somehow manage to get through it with flair, and can be seen playing throughout the season.

“Otters will often slide down a snowbank and do it repeatedly, as though they were really enjoying the experience.”

So, although we’ll never really know whether they’re enjoying themselves or not, here’s to the otters, who seem to know how to have a good time, despite the cold weather. Pulse of the Planet is presented by the American Museum of Natural History. I’m Jim Metzner.


Peter J. Marchand is the author of Life in the Cold, 3rd edition, published in 1996 by University Press of New England, Hanover, NH. ISBN 0-87451-785-0

UNDERWATER WINTER: Otters

Otters are able to make it through the difficult winter with flair and “good spirits”.
Air Date:01/21/1998
Scientist:
Transcript:

During the winter, river otters face extremely difficult survival conditions, but somehow manage to get through the season with their playful spirit intact. I'm Jim Metzner, and this is the Pulse of the Planet, presented by the American Museum of Natural History.

ambience river otters

We're listening to the sound of a river otter, recorded up close and personal

"The otter has made some important tradeoffs in terms of dealing with winter."

Biologist Peter Marchand:

"It has sacrificed, for example, the advantages of communal lodging or nesting, living with others, grooming with others, sharing food with others. And it has traded away, in a sense, the ability to store large amounts of fat for improved insulation. The trade-off appears to be an enhanced ability to get into small places and to hunt effectively -- to get underneath the ice for the one resource that it's most dependent upon during the wintertime, and that is fish. If the otter cannot get below the ice -- it's really onto hard times, because it is not very adept at hunting on land, especially in deep snow. And will in all likelihood, starve to death."

As grim as wintertime may seem for the otters, they somehow manage to get through it with flair, and can be seen playing throughout the season.

"Otters will often slide down a snowbank and do it repeatedly, as though they were really enjoying the experience."

So, although we'll never really know whether they're enjoying themselves or not, here's to the otters, who seem to know how to have a good time, despite the cold weather. Pulse of the Planet is presented by the American Museum of Natural History. I'm Jim Metzner.


Peter J. Marchand is the author of Life in the Cold, 3rd edition, published in 1996 by University Press of New England, Hanover, NH. ISBN 0-87451-785-0