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Spot-necked Otter (Hydrictis maculicollis) Fact Sheet: Summary

Spot-necked Otter (Hydrictis maculicollis) Fact Sheet

spot-necked otter

Spot-Necked Otter (Hydrictis maculicollis)

Image credit: © Chris Hunkeler Flickr, taken at the San Diego Zoo. Some rights reserved.


Taxonomy Physical Characteristics

Describer (Date): Lichenstein (1835)

Kingdom: Animalia

Phylum: Chordata

Class: Mammalia

Order: Carnivora

Family: Mustelidae

Subfamily: Lutrinae

Genus: Hydrictis

Species: Hydrictis maculicollis

Body Weight: 3-6 kg (7-13 lb)

Head/Body Length:
Males - 730 mm (2.4 ft)
Females - 585 mm (1.9 ft)

Tail Length: Average 400 mm (1 ft)

Pelage: Chocolate to reddish brown. Chin and upper lip, white. Two layers of fur: outer guard hairs, undercoat of denser hairs that trap air for insulation.

Distribution & Status Behavior & Ecology

Range: Sub-Saharan Africa, south of 10° N latitude but not in southern tip of Africa except for KwaZulu-Natal.

Habitat: Freshwater lakes, dams, rivers; not in coastal or marine waters.

IUCN Status: Near Threatened

CITES Appendix: Appendix II

Populations in Wild: Declining; status largely unknown.

Locomotion: Agile in water; emerge to sleep, excrete, give birth, and usually to eat their catch. Walk, run 4-5 km/hr (2.5-3.1 mi/hr), gallop 6-7 km/hr (3.7-4.3 mi/hr). Can stand vertically on hind limbs.Can jump a 1 m (3 ft) gap.

Activity Cycle: Mainly diurnal; some populations nocturnal.

Social Groups: Highly variable; some localities with foraging groups of up to 20 individuals, other places have mainly solitary hunting.

Diet: Mostly fish; some crabs, insects and frogs in some fish-poor localities.

Predators: Some reports of predation by Nile crocodile but not well documented.

Reproduction & Development Species Highlights

Sexual Maturity: Females (in managed care) can reproduce at 2 years.

Gestation: about 2 months

Litter Size: 1- 3 cubs/litter

Birth weight: Around 100 g (0.2 lb)

Age at Weaning: 12-18 weeks

Typical Life Expectancy: not reported

Feature Facts

  • Flexible body; can touch nose to tail
  • Two layers of thick fur keeps otters's body warm in water
  • Groom fur by scratching, biting, and by rubbing against grass, rocks, or logs; this activity is vital to their physical and mental health
  • Eyes adapted for seeing underwater; poor distance vision above water
  • Webbed feet with claws
  • Typically forage in small groups
  • Uncommon across much of its distribution
  • San Diego Zoo's Ituri Forest is one of the few places in North America where spot-necked otters can be seen
  • On exhibit, benefit from having other animals to interact with

About This Fact Sheet

© 2010-2016 San Diego Zoo Wildlife Alliance. Updated 2015. Conservation status update 2016.

How to cite: Spot-Necked Otter (Hydrictis maculicollis) Fact Sheet. c2010-2016. San Diego (CA): San Diego Zoo Wildlife Alliance; [accessed YYYY Mmm dd].
(Note: replace YYYY Mmm dd with date accessed, e.g., 2015 Jan 15)

Disclaimer: Although San Diego Zoo Wildlife Alliance makes every attempt to provide accurate information, some of the facts provided may become outdated or replaced by new research findings. Questions and comments may be addressed to

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