The James River Park System - Richmond, VA

Science in the Park

Join our Team!

We have created an iNaturalist project. Help us catalog the great biodiversity that we have here in the James River Park. Learn how »


back to Animals »

River Otter
Lontra canadensis
Family: Mustelidae

Carnivore / Predator
Native to Virginia

River Otter Factsheet

River Otter

river otter

Long thought to be absent in the James River Park System, American river otters were documented at several locations in the park in 2014. This playful and curious member of the weasel family lives in ‘holts’ or dens near the water and are crepuscular hunters, feeding on fish, amphibians, turtles and crustaceans.

Recorded activity in the James River Park

The otter was the reason we started documenting animals in the park. We heard they were there and wanted to prove it (and see what else was out there). We worked ALL SUMMER to catch one on video -- at multiple locations -- with multiple cameras.

Finally, in mid-August close to park headquarters at Reedy Creek, we recorded the first one. If you blinked at the beginning of the video, you would miss the half-second, overexposed flash of otter hopping up an island bank around 4:00 in the morning. It was our only documentation from this site, but reports this summer of otters in Forest Hill Park help to confirm their presence in this general area.

Otter. grooming from Science in the Park on Vimeo.

See all river otter videos »