Do Otters Eat Fish? (Unveiled)

Otters are members of the weasel family and are interesting animals with adorable antics and friendly personalities. They are known to be adept hunters, and it is unsurprising that they spend up to 5 hours hunting daily. Otters are opportunistic feeders and eat whatever they can, but do they eat fish? Let’s see.

Do Otters Eat Fish?

Otters are carnivorous animals, so they eat fish. In fact, fish is the primary food source for most otter species. Many people may assume they exclusively eat fish, but this is not always true. They may opt for other varieties of aquatic animals, such as crabs, crayfish, and frogs, from time to time.

But baby otters are not good at catching fish, so they practice it very young to master it.

How Do Otters Catch Fish?

Despite their size, most otter species are at the top of the food chain in almost every environment they live. These highly intelligent mammals are also voracious predators and very skilled hunters. They use various tools and tactics to catch their prey. To explain, giant otters and river otters use their vibrissae (hair around the mouth) to detect their prey.

Handling a live fish is tricky and needs a lot of practice. So, these critters eat smaller fish in the water, whereas larger ones are consumed on the land. Mother otters will teach the techniques of fishing to their pups until they are one year old. They learn quickly as they are naturally agile water hunters and intelligent mammals.

When some fish is detected, an otter quickly seizes it with its sharp teeth. A giant otter (the biggest otter species) holds its prey with paws while devouring it.

How Many Fish Do Otters Eat In A Day?

An otter’s BMR (Basal Metabolic Rate) is much higher than other similar-sized mammals. As a result, they will burn calories much faster than humans or other animals to maintain their body temperature. They have to eat large amounts of food to keep the levels in control. And this high food intake is even more necessary in winter to generate the required body heat.

These semi-aquatic creatures can consume 2-3 lbs (pounds) of fish each day. While the river otter consumes between 15% and 20% of its body weight daily, a sea otter consumes as much as 25-30% of its body weight.

What Size Fish Do Otters Eat?

As we just mentioned, North American river otters usually prey on smaller fish. They always prefer to pick on slow-moving fish like koi and carp as they can be an easy target, and they consume fish up to 12 cm in length and small eels up to 50 cm in size in natural conditions.

But in the case of giant otters, their favorite fish include characins, catfish, and cichlids. But they are not very particular about what they eat. When food can be scarce in adverse times, they don’t mind eating other creatures like rabbits, ducks, rodents, snakes, smaller caimans, and even anacondas.

Most otters prey and eat fish at night when many fish species are more docile and easy to catch.

Also Read: Do Whales Eat Seals?

Do Otters Eat The Whole Fish?

Once an otter catches a fish, it will eat the whole fish by consuming its head first. But occasionally, when they are already full or when the fish is plenty, they may choose only to eat the head part as it is more nutritious.

What Is Meant By Otters Fishing?

Otter fishing is a centuries-old tradition in countries like Bangladesh. It is a fishing technique where otters are trained to help people catch fish. In some parts of the world, fishermen have been using trained otters to lure fish into their nets and trap them. As per records, this technique dates back to the 6th century.

In this method, otters chase fish toward the fishing net. It is quite interesting to see where people still use this age-old technique in today’s modern world.

Do Otters Kill Fish For Fun?

Unlike humans, most creatures don’t kill other animals unnecessarily for fun.

During winters, when food is plenty and fish is easily acquirable, otters may catch and kill more fish than they can actually eat for safety. But once they finish eating, they won’t continue killing more fish.

Otters are not known to be ‘Surplus Killers,’ meaning they won’t kill more prey than they can immediately consume. There is no killing and storing in their story. But many animals are notorious as surplus killers, including jaguars, lions, honey badgers, spiders, orcas, hyenas, and bears.

How To Get Rid Of Otters In A Pond?

As we discussed, pond fish are at significant risk of being eaten by otters in winter times. So, if you are growing some fish in your pond, you have to be careful of these creatures as they are capable of eliminating the entire fish populations from a pond within a short period of time.

Trapping otters may seem like a better option, but capturing these in real life is a challenging job. Moreover, in many states, catching or trapping otters is not allowed, and it’s against the law. As they fall in the protected species category, you can only do that at a specific time of the year. But you need not worry as there are some other alternatives to stop otters from eating fish:

  • Remove all the dead fish from the pond (if any), as they may attract otters
  • You can place a heavy and strong mesh around the pond
  • Keeping some strong outside lights will discourage them from approaching the pond
  • You can also keep some high-frequency sonic devices to scare them off

Also Read: Do Dolphins Eat Seals?

However, if otters are more in numbers or when they are constantly making you pond problems, consider contacting wildlife removal companies, as you cannot handle all of them by yourself.

Summing Up:

Yes, otters eat a lot of fish; in fact, for many species, fish is the primary nutrition. They are opportunistic feeders and expert hunters, so they also prey on other creatures apart from fish.

River otters are known to eat whatever is easiest to find, like crustaceans, mollusks, insects, birds, shellfish, crabs, oysters, crayfish, frogs, rodents, turtles, and aquatic invertebrates. Sea otters eat urchins, mussels, abalone, clams, crabs, snails, and about 40 other marine species.


If you liked this article, you might also like our other articles. Consider reading them and sharing them with your friends and family so they can also learn about our beautiful wildlife. 

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