Many of the inhabitants of Starved Rock Country go unseen however they play a vital role to the lush environment of our beautiful Illinois River.
River otters are semi-aquatic mammals, with long, streamlined bodies, thick tapered tails, and short legs. These semi-aquatic mammals can tolerate a variety of environments, including the harsh Illinois winter cold and the heat of the Starved Rock Country’s summers.
The North American river otters build dens in the burrows of other mammals, in natural hollows, such as under a log, or in river banks. Dens have underwater entrances and a tunnel leading to a nest chamber that is lined with leaves, grass, moss, bark, and hair.
Did you know that the adorable river otter is also fast on land, capable of running at up to 29 km/hr. These otters normally hunt at night, but can be seen at all times of day. They normally live about 8 to 9 years in the wild and play a vital role in the ecosystem by being the natural predators of fish and aquatic invertebrates usually consuming mainly slow, non-game fish species aka.. “trash fish”.
Northern river otter populations are still considered vulnerable or imperiled throughout much of their range in Midwestern United States, so no hunting of these adorable creatures is allowed.
Otters only have one natural predator in Illinois, and that is the coyote. However, since they do spend time on land, please watch for otters crossing the road when you are driving near the river.
But no matter how cute these little swimmers are , and there is no dening that they are adorable… remember that like the mink or skunk, the river otter can emit a foul-smelling scent when disturbed or captured.
River Otters…. Another reason that Starved Rock Country is an amazing place to live and play.