Can you have a pet otter in Canada?

Otters are incredibly cute animals, known for their charming traits like holding hands with each other to keep from drifting away.

There are a number of different species of otters around the world, but only two in Canada.

Despite being cute creatures, they are wild animals and, therefore, do not make good pets. In Canada, the laws vary based on province, but in general, you cannot legally own an otter as a pet. 

Canadian provinces have their own legislation for what kinds of animals are allowed as pets. Otters are considered wild animals and endangered species.

They were trapped and sold for their fur for many years which put them in the critically endangered category for many years.

Luckily, otter populations are returning—specifically, the sea otters in British Columbia.

Since each province has different laws and rules around what animals are allowed as pets and which aren’t, it’s always worth getting specific information from the provincial government before considering purchasing any animal.

Is it legal to have a pet otter?

It is up to each province in Canada to determine what species are endangered, what ones need to be protected, and therefore, which animals are allowed to be kept as pets.

There are times in which the federal government may also cooperate with the provincial governments to protect endangered specifies that may be on the brink of extinction. 

Otters are considered wild animals, which are not allowed to be kept as pets. For example, in BC, the BC Wildlife Act determines what animals are designated as “wild,” and therefore not able to be kept as pets.

Types of otters

There are a number of different types of otters that are found around the world, living in different climates and habitats. There are 13 otter species that live worldwide, but just two species are found in Canada—the North American river otter and sea otters.

Here is a quick summary of the otter species:

  • North American river otters live throughout Canada and the USA. Though the numbers are increasing, at one point they were very endangered due to trapping practices for their fur.
  • Sea otters are native to the coasts of the Pacific Ocean, in Canada, the USA and some areas of Russia, Mexico and Japan.
  • The Eurasian otter is most widely distributed and lives throughout Eurasia, North Africa, Sri Lanka and Indonesia.
  • Hairy-nosed otters live in Southeast Asia in coastal areas or on large inland rivers. This species is very rare and near-extinct due to poaching.
  • Spotted-necked otters are found in parts of Africa.
  • Smooth-coated otters live throughout India and the surrounding areas. They are named for their distinct smooth fur coats.
  • South American river otters are found in Chile and Argentina in marine and freshwater habitats.
  • Neotropical river otters live throughout South America and up to Mexico.
  • Marine otters are found along the western coast of South America.
  • Giant otters are, as the name suggests, the largest otter at 2m in length. They live throughout South America.
  • Asian small-clawed otters live in India, China, and Taiwan.
  • African clawless otters live in Sub-Saharan Africa.

Facts about otters in Canada

As mentioned, there are two species of otters that are found in Canada—the river otter and sea otter. River otters are all over Canada and can be found in every province and territory in the country.

They live in bodies of water like rivers, lakes, and large creeks.

They do, however, also thrive on land and their burrows are usually in a spot where they can access both water and land. River otters don’t hibernate during the winter months but will stay active under frozen water.

They can actually hold their breath for eight minutes before needing to find a break in the ice to take a breath.

The other species readily found in Canada are sea otters.

They are an endangered species that is very important to the marine ecosystem in the Pacific Ocean. They are foragers that eat things like sea urchins, which keep the stability of the ecosystem.

Sea otters are perhaps the species that are known for their very cute traits, like holding hands with each other to keep from losing each other while floating.

Why otters aren’t a good pet

A growing trend in some parts of Asia has been keeping otters as pets and breeding them to sell as pets.

These otters are the latest exotic pet trend, fueled by social media showing how cute they are, making people think that they are good pets to have. 

Despite the growing popularity, otters do not make good pets. Or, it is not good for otters to be kept in captivity. They are wild animals that need to have large areas to live in.

They do not do well in small tanks or cages, where they would have to be kept in a home. They are also very social animals, so living alone in captivity would be very negative for them.

Other problems with pet otters include: making loud noises, having a strong odour, becoming aggressive when stressed, or leaving droppings around the home (i.e. they do not train well to go to the bathroom in a certain area).

These factors are all reasons why otters should not be kept in captivity as a pet.

They are wild animals and need to be respected to live in tier own habitats, despite how cute they are and that they might seem like a good pet to have.

It is for these reasons that there are many laws in place to protect otters like the wildlife they are. Legislation in Southeast Asia has been cracking down on the breeding and sales of otters to protect these beautiful animals.


Otters are beautiful animals that are found all over the world. There are two species that live in Canada—the river otter and the sea otter.

They are both considered wild animals, so are not allowed to be kept as pets. Provincial governments in Canada are responsible for the legislation around owning wildlife as pets. 

As wild animals, otters have specific habitat needs and require huge areas to roam free in. For this reason, they do not make good pets.

So, we should enjoy seeing otters in the wild when we get the chance, and respect them as the wild and free animals that they are.

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