How Much Does an Otter Cost?

Written by: Staff

Otters are any of 13 aquatic or amphibious species of mammals in the subfamily, lutrinae, and these carnivorous mammals are related to weasels and feed on fish, shellfish as well as small mammals.

Known as the “ferret on crack,” these animals will go through every square inch fo your home, often destroying everything they can get into.

Most otters often adopted as a pet are referred to as Asian clawed otter.

Otter looking innocent by amitp, on Flickr
Otter looking innocent” (CC BY 2.0) by amitp

How much does a pet otter cost?

If an otter is legal in your state, the average costs to adopt one usually hover around $3,500 to $5,000.  Before considering adoption, always refer to the local laws to ensure you can legally house one.

What are the extra costs?

Otters often feed on live crayfish and a low pH cat food when in captivity.  Plan on budgeting around $50 to $70 per month as they will eat about 20 percent of their body weight daily.  Aside from food, vitamin supplements will be required weekly.

Enclosures will be an additional expense to consider.  The enclosure for one otter should be at least five by six feet and should include a shallow pond that closely mimics their native habitat.  These habitats should be outdoors, with a top and fencing that needs to extend into the ground to prevent a potential escape.  If you don’t live in a warmer climate, then heat will need to be supplied to keep the atmosphere comfortable.  The ideal temperature is between 75 and 85 degrees Fahrenheit.

Captive otters play with various toys such as Frisbees and balls. Some otters are known to have favorite toys that they guard as possessions.  This entertainment is crucial to offer a diverse enrichment environment to keep your otter entertained.

Vet bills will be necessary for routine checkups and if health issues arise.  Being an exotic animal, it may be hard to find a local vet who can care for it, so you may be paying more than your average household pet.

You may need a license depending upon the state you live in, which cost about $20 to $50+ a year. This needs to be paid every year, but it allows you legally house the animal.

Due to this exotic animal being extremely uncommon to find, you will often need to export one from either another state or country, which, in turn, can lead to additional shipping costs.

Tips to know:

The 13 extant sea otter species are all aquatic or semi-aquatic, with diets based on invertebrates and fish. Otters possess long, slim bodies and somewhat short limbs with webbed-paws. The majority of otters possess sharp claws over their feet. All, except for the sea otter, possess long, muscular tails. The thirteen species range in adult-size from 2.0 to 5.9 feet in length and 2.2 to 99 pounds in weight.

Otters can live up to 25 years, even though the average lifespan is between 10 and 12 years.

Otters are believed by a number of experts to possess consistently playful personalities. Animal observations have shown that the otters will repeatedly slide down snow-covered slopes for no apparent reason other than pleasure.

Some river otter species seem to be monogamous, at least in captive environments.

Sea otters are coastal, shallow water-dwellers. Their habitats consist of two areas in these waters – the ocean floor where otters find their food, as well as the ocean surface where they feed, groom and rest and where social interactions occur. The remaining 12 otter species are typically classified together as being river otters. All 12 have long, powerful tails that are lacking in the marine species. All otter species have high metabolic rates, implying that they must consume food constantly to maintain body temperature and also function in the water. A good number of species consume around 15% to 25% of their body-weight every day. Unlike the sea otters, which stay in the ocean nearly constantly, river otters are likely to stay close to land.

Due to an otter smearing their dropping to mark their territory, this can cause a faint odor, which is often unpleasant to most.

Otters are sociable animals that can float together in groups composed of less than 10 individuals to over 100, known as rafts. Typically, the groups are usually separated by sex; females and their pups spend time in one group, while males are found in another group. Usually, otters swim over their backs, but while traveling, they are known to swim on their stomachs. Otters will only feed while floating, but they might also rest, groom, and nurse young ones. It’s also common for otters to cover themselves in kelp beds when sleeping or resting. Otters live in oceans and rivers throughout the world and are dearly loved for their charming appearance as well as abilities. Pups live with their family for roughly one year.

Where can you find an otter for sale?  The only reputable website, offer listings from time to time; however, it’s rare.

Is it legal to own an otter?

States, from what we researched, may be legal in Nevada, Florida, Mississippi, South Dakota, Indiana, Ohio, Tennesse, New York, Minnesota, North Carolina and Oklahoma.  There are a number of laws in regards to “exotic” animals in each state, so it’s hard to say if an otter is, for certain, legal where you reside.  To know for certain if an otter is legal in your area, refer to your state’s Department of Fish and Game to know for sure.

With this being said, most states will ban the possession of the river otter, which is protected by the federal Marine Mammal Protection Act.  On the other hand, the Asian small-clawed otter may be legal, again, depending on the state’s law.

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