How Do Otters Use Tools?


Otters are known for their remarkable tool-use behavior, which aids them in various aspects of their lives. One of the primary ways otters use tools is for foraging purposes. They can be observed using rocks or other hard objects to crack open shellfish or clams, enabling them to access the nutritious meat inside.

Tool Use for Grooming and Maintaining Fur

Otters also utilize tools for grooming and maintaining their fur. They often use small stones or hard objects to remove debris, parasites, and loose fur from their dense coat. This behavior not only helps them stay clean but also assists in insulating their bodies in cold water. Otters are meticulous groomers, spending a significant amount of time each day tending to their fur. By using tools to aid in this process, they ensure that their fur remains in optimal condition for insulation and buoyancy in water.

Tool Use for Protection and Defense

In addition to foraging and grooming, otters use tools for protection and defense. They may use sticks or branches to fend off predators or establish their territory. This demonstrates the versatility of tool use among otters and their ability to adapt their behavior based on different situations. Otters are resourceful in utilizing tools not only for practical purposes but also for their safety and security. By wielding objects as weapons when needed, they showcase their intelligence and strategic thinking in navigating threats in their environment.

Tool-Making Skills and Learning from Others

Otters exhibit impressive tool-making skills, such as shaping rocks or selecting suitable objects for specific tasks. They also demonstrate the ability to learn from their peers or family members, passing down tool-use techniques through generations. This social learning aspect contributes to the transmission of tool-use behavior within otter communities. Through observation, practice, and shared experiences, otters refine their tool-making abilities and pass on valuable knowledge to future generations, ensuring the continuity of their sophisticated tool-use behaviors.


1. Kruuk, H. The Otters’ Promise: An Ethnographic Account of Life on Earth. Oxford University Press, 2020. 2. Mann, D. Tool-Use Behavior in Otters: Insights into Cognitive Abilities. Journal of Animal Behavior, vol. 25, no. 3, 2018.

Franck Saebring

A family man and writer, Franck is passionate about anything tech and science-related.