Japanese River Otter Facts
Because the Japanese River Otter has gone from numbers once in the millions to
thirty years without a spotting, in 2012, the species joined the list of extinct animals. These river otters did very well until the 1930's, when their numbers went
down drastically. What happened to this otter? Modern day pollution compromised
their habitat and their food source while their lush fur coat made them the target
of overhunting, eventually leading to extinction. A photo of one was taken in 1979
in Susaki, Japan where it is believed that the last Japanese River Otter was
spotted. Why was it hard to tell mother from child? How did they forage for food?
Find the answers to these questions and more when you read the interesting facts
and information listed below.
Japanese River Otter Facts
- Unlike the Eurasian River Otter, the Japanese River Otter was only found in Japan,
mainly in wetland and river areas.
- This species was a member of the weasel family and a subspecies of the
- The scientific name for the Japanese River Otter is Lutra lutra whiteleyi.
- Because this extinct mammal spent most of its time in the water, it primarily
ate a seafood based diet such as fish, eels, crab, and shrimp. It was not too
particular, however, and also ate both living and non-living food from the land
such as beetles, small rodents, sweet potatoes and watermelons.
- Being a nocturnal animal, these animals spent the nighttime hours on the
move and foraging for food. It would search along the wide territory it had marked
with its droppings, sometimes as wide as a 50 mile radius.
- With the exception of mating season, the Japanese River Otter was a solitary
animal that spent most of its time alone.
Japanese River Otter Appearance
- Like all river otters, they have long, thin bodies which helped them to swim and
glide through the water at speeds of up to seven miles per hour.
- A fully grown Japanese River Otter was between 25–31 inches long (65 - 80 cm), and
its tail added another 17 to 20 inches (45 to 50 cm) to its total length.
- The short webbed feet of this species not only helped them in the water,
but also aided them on land as well where they were able to run and sprint quite fast.
Japanese River Otter Interesting Facts
- Once the Japanese River Otter reached one year in age it was ready to begin life on its own. At this age it was hard to distinguish mother from baby.
- These animals were able to stay underwater for over two minutes at a time.
- Before their extinction Japanese River Otters were even seen in the populated city of Tokyo.
- These animals had a life span of up to 25 years.
- An important part of Japanese culture, the Japanese River Otter was named the
official animal symbol of Japan's Ehime Prefecture; a region of Japan located in northwestern Shikoku.