Mystery Image Contest: March 3-17, 2014


This is a North American river otter (Lontra canadensis), a species of mammal that lives in river, lake, swamp, and estuary ecosystems all over Canada and the United States. Their preferred diet consists of fish and other small aquatic creatures like frogs and crayfish. Though river otters live on land, they are well adapted for spending long periods in water: they have water-repellent fur and webbed toes; can hold their breath for up to eight minutes; can close their nostrils and ears while underwater; and have special additional transparent eyelids that they can close while underwater to protect their eyes. Though river otters are not considered endangered, they have been subject to habitat loss since the European colonization of North America. River otters are also very sensitive to pollution and will quickly move to other areas if their habitat becomes polluted.


This image is of a North American river otter.

Photo Credit

Keenan Adams, US Fish & Wildlife Service

Winning Entry

Imlay City School
Imlay City, MI

For Educators

Teaching Support

The North American river otter is one of the featured animals of National Wildlife Week, which runs from March 17 to 23. Sponsored by the National Wildlife Federation, this year's National Wildlife Week theme is "Wildlife & Water: From the Mountains to the Rivers to the Oceans." This special week is a great opportunity to focus on local wildlife that are part of aquatic ecosystems, such as the North American river otter (or any of the other featured wildlife species). The NWF also has compiled dozens of relevant resources for educators, including posters and factsheets, lesson plans for all grades, and a pre-recorded webinar.

In addition, take a look at the Related Resources from Science NetLinks: our National Wildlife Week and BioBlitz collections are great starting points for finding related content. We also have resources relating to two National Wildlife Week featured species: the blue crab (How a Blue Crab Changes As It Grows) and the Hawaiian monk seal (those centered around Terrie Williams' The Odyssey of KP2).

Related Resources

National Wildlife Week
How a Blue Crab Changes as It Grows
3-5 | LESSON
Introducing Biodiversity
3-5 | LESSON
The Odyssey of KP2
9-12 | LESSON
iNaturalist App
3-12 | TOOL
Project Noah App
K-12 | TOOL
Interview with Terrie Williams
6-12 | VIDEO
Terrie Williams Reads from KP2
6-12 | VIDEO

Science NetLinks Mystery Image Contest Rules and Regulations

What Is the

Mystery Image Contest?

The Mystery Image Contest offers the chance to identify a science-related object based on a close-up picture of it.