The smooth-coated otter attains sexual maturity at 22 months. Breeding takes place from August to December and the smooth-coated otter gives birth 60 – 62 days later to between one and five young. At four weeks the eyes open, and at six weeks they begin to learn to swim. After five months, the young are weaned and at one year, they will often disperse to find home ranges of their own. The longest recorded life span in captivity is around 20 years and five months (6).
Smooth-coated otters are unusually social and family groups including the breeding pair and up to four young from previous seasons might nest and hunt together in a territory of 7 – 12 km². This territory is marked by a strong musky odour that is spread on vegetation from anal scent glands in both males and females. Whilst the male is larger, it is the female who holds dominance in the group (5).
This active carnivore will hunt in groups both at night and during the day for fish, insects, earthworms, crustaceans, frogs, water rats, and birds; however, it is predominantly a fish eater. When swimming slowly, all four paws are used to ‘doggy paddle’ through the water, but to swim fast, the shorter front paws are tucked in, and the webbed hind feet and tail are used for propulsion. The ears and nostrils can be closed underwater. Fishermen in India, Bangladesh and Pakistan often train these cooperative hunters to drive fish into their nets (5).
Using visual and auditory communication, smooth-coated otters will also cooperate to lookout for predators such as crocodiles, medium-sized cat species, and large birds of prey (5).