Can Otters Live On Land? (Here’s What They Do!)

Otters are most often seen in the water. They’re strong swimmers with waterproof fur, making them perfect for life at sea, in a river, or in another type of waterway.

But you might be curious about whether otters can live on land.

Sea otters often go their entire lives without leaving the water, so they likely wouldn’t do well on land. Freshwater otters thrive when they can live both in water and on land, and they often seek food and travel by land. All types of otters require a nearby water source to survive, and they find many sources of food there.

In this article, we’ll discuss how long otters can live out of water, whether they need to live near water, and why otters may be seen on land.

Do Otters Live In Water Or On Land?

Both river otters and sea otters spend quite a bit of time in the water. Sea otters spend the majority of their lives there, while river otters tend to spend more time on land. They frequently travel and hunt for food outside of the water.

How Long Can Otters Live Out Of Water?

It’s not known exactly how long otters can live outside of the water, but it would likely vary depending on the type of otter.

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For example, sea otters can live their entire lives without leaving the water, so they probably wouldn’t be able to get by very long on land if they had no water source nearby.

Meanwhile, river otters thrive when they can enjoy a mix of water and land. They’re more suited to traveling and hunting on land than sea otters and would most likely survive longer outside of the water.

Do Otters Need To Live Near Water?

Photo: Harold Litwiler / Flickr / CC BY-SA 2.0

Otters need to live near water. Sea otters live in the ocean, while river or freshwater otters can survive in nearly any type of water habitat, provided that it has plenty of food sources. 

Potential environments for freshwater otters include rivers, lakes, marshes, ponds, and estuaries (areas where freshwater streams or rivers connect with the ocean). 

In most cases, otters are no more than 1,000 feet from water, and the majority of them depend on aquatic environments as food sources.

Preferred Water Types

Different types of otters live in specific habitats.

For example, Asian small-clawed otters live in coastal waters, creeks, rivers, and estuaries. Giant otters make slow-moving rivers and creeks inside marshes, swamps, and forests their home.

River otters are happy to live in any kind of inland waterway, and cape clawless otters generally prefer slow streams and quiet ponds.

Sea otters live primarily in the North Pacific’s coastal waters, and California otters feel most comfortable in kelp beds.

Even though otters spend a great deal of time in the water, all of them except for sea otters also spend plenty of time on land. They travel to different waterways on land and also have multiple land facilities for various activities.

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There are burrows, of course, but there are also rolling places. These are patches of ground that are completely bare and perfect for rolling and grooming. Meanwhile, runways link waterways and other facilities.

Slides, which can be winter snow banks or sloping riverbanks, are facilities that offer quick access to water. 

And spraint sites, the least appealing of these on-land facilities, are areas designated for defecation. 

Why Would An Otter Be On Land?

One of the reasons that otters leave the water, referred to as “hauling out,” is to get some rest out of reach of predators that live in the water.

Otters also go on land to warm up and to stay warm. Female otters with pups will come out of the water to rest and conserve their energy as they devote their time to raising their offspring.

Older, injured, and ill otters will also come ashore so that they can have time to recover and rest.

Another reason otters come onto land is to travel to a different waterway.

How Far Otters Travel On Land

Sometimes, otters will travel on land to either find food or relocate to another waterway. Otters can travel a surprisingly far distance on land, which is anywhere between ten and 18 miles.


Freshwater otters enjoy a mixture of living in the water and on land. They often travel by land and seek food there as well.

Sea otters, however, can go through their entire lives without ever leaving the water. They most likely would not survive for a long period of time if they were forced to live on land.

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However, all kinds of otters need to live close to a water source for survival. Not only is it part of their natural habitat, but it houses many of their food sources as well.

James Ball

James has had a lifelong passion for animals and nature, tracing back to his childhood where he first began fostering intimate knowledge and connection with pet frogs and snakes. He has since honed this interest into a career as a trained Wildlife Biologist, specializing in Biogeography, sustainability and conservation. In addition to his professional pursuits, James maintains an active lifestyle, regularly indulging in outdoor activities such as hiking, and musical pursuits like playing piano and swimming.

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