Unusual features/differences from similar
The hind feet
are webbed and have tiny nails. Front feet are only slightly webbed and have
no nails or claws.
Visible Male/Female Differences
Males are bigger than females.
Habitat and Distribution
It prefers running water to dams and lakes. Can live in fresh water, estuaries, lagoons and the sea as long as
fresh drinking water, food, and the cover of dense vegetation, holes or rocks is
available. Feeds mainly on crustaceans. Also eats frogs, dragonfly larvae,
fish, birds, rodents and mollusks.
Litters of up to three, usually two,
are born during the dry season after a gestation 60-64 days
in hole or
nest in dense vegetation. Eyes open at 1 month and only then will they leave the den
with mother. Pups are weaned at about eight weeks.
Mothers are very protective and
will even attack people.
Behavior and Habits
The clawless otter is active mainly during the late afternoon,
early morning and dusk. When inactive they shelter in dens (called holts) in
dense vegetation, under rocks or digs its own burrows. Superbly at home in the
water. The hind feet are used for propulsion and the tail is
a rudder. Fish are hunted
by sight; crabs and mollusks are felt for and captured with the forefeet and
then killed. The long tactile whiskers detect vibrations from moving
prey. Crabs are crushed and swallowed shell and all while water mongooses
do not swallow the carapace. Fish are eaten from the head backwards. Spotted-necked
otters begin their meal from the tail. After swimming, it dries itself by
rubbing on vegetation, the ground, or against rocks. Its hands, with rough skin
on palms and fingers, makes it easy to feel under rocks or in holes for prey,
especially frogs and fish, which it eats while treading water. They could be
right- or left-handed; after eating it will wash its face and paws.
singly, in twos, or in family groups of parents with up to three young.
Intense threats: growls,
snarls and loud wails.
Submissive lying on
Greeting call: whack-o,
family: squealing, mewing and snuffling.
Begging call: humming.
Alarm call: Hah!
Dung and Field sign
The dung (called spraints) are 22-29 mm in diameter and are found
in middens close to the water. Spraints contain fragments of crab
carapaces and have a fishy
odor; dark brown when fresh, ageing to cream. The spoor is large (6-9 cm wide)
and does not show claw marks. Flattened vegetation or sand marks where
an otter rubbed itself dry. Also smooth slide marks as it enters and leaves the