Spotted-Necked Otter: Habitat, Diet, Lifespan & Facts

Instructor: Lauren Posey

Lauren has taught intermediate reading in an English Language Institute, and she has her Master's degree in Linguistics.

In this lesson you will learn about the spotted-necked otter. We will take a look at their habitat, diet, and typical lifespan, as well as some interesting facts about their behavior.

Spotted-Necked Otters

If you hear that an animal has a huge geographic range, you probably assume that this animal has a high population, right? Interestingly, though, this is not always the case. Take the spotted-necked otter (Hydrictis maculicollis), for example. This species can be found throughout the entirety of sub-Saharan Africa, which is all of Africa south of the Sahara desert. Basically, the otter's geographic range covers three-quarters of Africa.

However, it does not have an especially high population. Its exact population isn't known, but this species is considered rare throughout the majority of its geographic range. In part this is because the spotted-necked otter has very specific habitat requirements. Their rarity is also due to increased pollution and habitat loss in many parts of their range.

Spotted-necked otters have a vast geographic range
Spotted-necked otter range


Spotted-necked otters have very particular habitat requirements. For one, they only live in areas that have abundant fresh water year-round. They do not live in marine or coastal environments that have salt water. Instead, you are likely to find them in large lakes or rivers.

This species is also highly intolerant of pollution, and will move out of polluted areas. This, too, restricts where they can make their homes. Habitat degradation, where the quality of the habitat is damaged, is a major problem in many parts of Africa. Pollution and degradation also affect the food supply that otters rely on.

In addition, spotted-necked otters require dense vegetation on the shoreline. The vegetation protects them from predators while they rest, and it gives them a safe place to build their dens. Otters construct their dens onshore where they can be protected by rocks and vegetation, though they can usually get to the entrances from underwater.


Spotted-necked otters are carnivores, which means they eat meat. Their main diet is fish. Spotted-necked otters aren't large - they're typically about two feet long (not including their tail) and weigh seven to thirteen pounds - and sometimes they even catch and eat fish as big as themselves!

These otters will also supplement their diet with crabs, frogs, and water snails, depending on where they live. They typically hunt for food close to shore, in the underwater areas with thicker vegetation.

Spotted-necked otters usually hunt near shore
Spotted-necked otter


As is typical for many species, the lifespan of the spotted-necked otter is quite a bit longer in captivity than in the wild. In the wild, this species usually lives to be about eight years old. However, the longest lived spotted-necked otter in captivity lived to be 14 years old. This particular otter was a male at the Otter Breeding Center of Hunawihr, in France.

Of course, this lifespan is assuming that they are not eaten by predators. Spotted-necked otters are especially likely to be caught by predators when they are young. Their main predators are fish eagles and monitor lizards, and sometimes crocodiles.

Interesting Facts

One interesting fact about the spotted-necked otter is how they eat. When consuming smaller fish, crabs, and snails, the otter floats on its back in the water and holds the food out of the water to eat. This is actually typical of many otter species.

Another interesting fact is that baby otters are born blind! They don't open their eyes at all until they are over a month old. After two months they are able to swim, and they usually stay with their mothers for their first year.

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