Hunting and Feeding in the Asian Small-Clawed Otter

The information below comes from Harris (1968) and Kruuk, Kanchanasaka et al (1994).


This species is not a great fish eater, specializing instead in crustaceans, molluscs and other invertebrates. If available, crabs form most of their diet, with no particular preference as to size, along with crayfish and clams. Some fish may be taken, along with small mammals and amphibians - like most otters, they are opportunists on the lookout for an easy meal. In captivity, they have shown a taste for fruit, and other wild otters, such as the Marine Otter are known to eat fruit in season, so it seems likely that berries and other vegetable matter form some part of their diet in the wild.

Each adult otter eats 1.5 to 2lb of food per day, which is about 25% of their bodyweight. Food ingested is defaecated within one to three hours, depending on type.

Hunting Schedule

This species is primarily diurnal, although in some areas they are known to forage at night. They alternate periods of foraging with grooming, resting (usually in the sun) and sleeping (often in a group).

Hunting Methods

Asian Small-Clawed Otters' freedom of digital movement due to reduced webbing on the front paws, lack of claws and extreme delicacy of touch enables them to hunt by probing through mud, in crevices and under rocks, usually with gaze averted. They spend more time on land than other species of otters, and will forage at some distance from water. They will swim readily, however, and dive, usually only to their body length, to search for prey. One technique that has been noted is their method for dealing with clams. As they dig the shellfish out of the mud, the otters lay their finds out on the bank in the sun. As the bivalves dry, they open, and the otters are able to eat the flesh without effort. With crabs, however, the legs are usually torn off, and the body crushed and eaten. Some individuals may prise the carapace off - others eat the shell and flesh together. Whatever they are eating, they tend to wash it in the nearest water first. There is no evidence of cooperative hunting in the wild, although they are known to cooperate to solve problems in captivity. Being such a social species, it would seem likely that some collaboration does take place, but has not been observed.

Asian Small-Clawed Otter