MarLIN

information on the biology of species and the ecology of habitats found around the coasts and seas of the British Isles

Eurasian river otter (Lutra lutra)

Distribution data supplied by the Ocean Biogeographic Information System (OBIS). To interrogate UK data visit the NBN Atlas.

Summary

Description

The Eurasian river otter is a member of the weasel family with a long lithe body, short legs and a thick tail. Its streamlined shape and webbed feet make it an agile swimmer. The amphibious lifestyle of the otter is aided by its ability to close its small ears and nose and a thick coat of short fur, which insulates the animal by trapping a layer of air. The coat is predominantly brown, with a paler underside. Adults can reach up to 1.1 m in length weighing 7 – 12 kg. They are considered shy and elusive animals, however, their playful side is revealed through games of catch with pebbles.  The Eurasian river otter requires access to water for feeding where it can be seen swimming low in the water with only the ears, eyes and nose visible above the surface. They also need terrestrial areas for resting and breeding. Therefore, they can be found in a variety of semi-aquatic habitats from lakes and rivers to estuaries and salt marshes.

Recorded distribution in Britain and Ireland

The Eurasian river otter has been recorded all over the UK, with most of the population residing in Scotland. Particularly important otter habitats are the coasts and islands of western Scotland and Shetland. 

Global distribution

The Eurasian river otter is widely distributed, spanning three continents: Europe, Asia and Africa. In Europe, its distribution stretches from central Denmark in the west, via west Germany, the Netherlands, western France to Spain.  It is also recorded from most of Scandinavia and southern Italy. However, it is extinct or reduced to isolated subpopulations in a corridor stretching from central Denmark, via the western parts of Germany, Belgium, Luxembourg, the eastern parts of France, Switzerland, the western parts of Austria to central Italy. Russia bridges the gap between Europe and Asia, with otter populations observed in most of the country excluding the tundra and areas of permafrost in the North. It is also found from the Near and Middle East into South Asia, where otters are reported in almost all countries particularly the Himalayan river systems. Its range extends east through South-East Asia ending before Japan where it is likely extinct.  In Africa, the Eurasian River Otter population spans Morocco, Algeria and Tunisia.

Habitat

Eurasian river otters are found near lakes, rivers, estuaries and coastal waters in home ranges that extend over tens of kilometres. Coastal populations are observed feeding in the shallows, where they hunt primarily for fish. However, these colonies are never fully marine as the otters require fresh water for grooming salt from the fur and terrestrial habitats for breeding and resting.  During the day the otters reside in holts (underground dens) that can be dug into tree root systems and river banks, while those on the coast may be sheltered by piles of boulders.

Depth range

Terrestrial, Intertidal and Subtidal

Identifying features

  • A brown coat of fur, often paler on the underside.
  • Up to 1.1 m long.
  • Body shape is long and slender, with short legs and a thick tail.
  • Small eyes and nose.
  • Webbed feet.

Additional information

The Eurasian river otter is a solitary animal, with adults only tending to associate with one another for reproduction. If a small number of otters are observed together, the group will typically comprise an adult female with cub(s). A mother will feed a cub until approximately 4 months old, but the cub may remain associated with the mother for up to 12 months.

The Eurasian river otter suffered a rapid decline in the 1950s caused the effective loss of most of the English population by 1980, whilst in Scotland, the population experienced only a small decline. Since then, evidence suggests a recovering population in all parts of the UK, although Scotland is still likely to host the largest population (> 77% of total population in 2004; JNCC, 2007).

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Further information sources

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Bibliography

  1. Natural England., 2014. Otters: surveys and mitigation for development projects. Wildlife and habitat conservation and Protected sites and species. [On-line]. Natural England and Department for Environment, Food & Rural Affairs. Available at: www.gov.uk/guidance/otters-protection-surveys-and-licences​
  2. Roos, A., Loy, A., de Silva, P., Hajkova, P. & Zemanová, B., 2015. Lutra lutra. The IUCN Red List of Threatened Species 2015: e. T12419A21935287.
  3. Scottish Natural Heritage., 2010. Otters and development. Scottish wildlife series. [On-line] ​Scottish Natural Heritage. Available from: ​http://www.snh.org.uk/publications/on-line/wildlife/otters/default.asp
  4. Tyler-Walters, H., James, B., Carruthers, M., Wilding, C., Durkin, O., Lacey, C., Philpott, E., Adams, L., Chaniotis, P. & Wilkes, P., 2016. Descriptions of Scottish Priority Marine Features (PMFs). Scottish Natural Heritage Commissioned Report, no. 406 
     

Datasets

  1. BIS for Powys & Brecon Beacons National Park, 2017. Radnorshire Wildlife Trust records held by BIS. Occurrence dataset: https://www.bis.org.uk/ accessed via NBNAtlas.org on 2018-09-25.

  2. Bristol Regional Environmental Records Centre, 2017. BRERC species records recorded over 15 years ago. Occurrence dataset: https://doi.org/10.15468/h1ln5p accessed via GBIF.org on 2018-09-25.

  3. Bristol Regional Environmental Records Centre, 2017. BRERC species records within last 15 years. Occurrence dataset: https://doi.org/10.15468/vntgox accessed via GBIF.org on 2018-09-25.

  4. British Trust for Ornithology, 2018. Non-avian taxa (BTO+partners). Occurrence dataset: https://www.bto.org/ accessed via NBNAtlas.org on 2018-09-25.

  5. Cambridgeshire & Peterborough Environmental Records Centre, 2017. CPERC Combined Dataset. Occurrence dataset: https://doi.org/10.15468/npthhv accessed via GBIF.org on 2018-09-25.

  6. Cofnod – North Wales Environmental Information Service, 2018. Miscellaneous records held on the Cofnod database. Occurrence dataset: https://doi.org/10.15468/hcgqsi accessed via GBIF.org on 2018-09-25.

  7. Cumbria Biodiversity Data Centre, 2018. Tullie House Museum Natural History Collections. Occurrence dataset: https://doi.org/10.15468/epewfs accessed via GBIF.org on 2018-09-25.

  8. Cumbria Biodiversity Data Centre, 2018. Wildwatch North Pennines AONB project records for Cumbria. Occurrence dataset: https://doi.org/10.15468/05h2u8 accessed via GBIF.org on 2018-09-25.

  9. Derbyshire Biological Records Centre, 2017. DBRC Lutra lutra records 1952 - 2016. Occurrence dataset: https://doi.org/10.15468/q6yovo accessed via GBIF.org on 2018-09-25.

  10. Derbyshire Biological Records Centre, 2017. DBRC Lutra lutra records 1952 - 2016. Occurrence dataset: https://doi.org/10.15468/q6yovo accessed via GBIF.org on 2018-09-25.

  11. Dumfries and Galloway Environmental Resources Centre, 2017. Mammal records for Dumfries and Galloway. Occurrence dataset: https://doi.org/10.15468/oirkpx accessed via GBIF.org on 2018-09-27

  12. Environmental Records Information Centre North East, 2018. ERIC NE Combined dataset to 2017. Occurrence dataset: http://www.ericnortheast.org.uk/home.html accessed via NBNAtlas.org on 2018-09-38

  13. Fenwick, 2018. Aphotomarine. Occurrence dataset http://www.aphotomarine.com/index.html Accessed via NBNAtlas.org on 2018-10-01

  14. Fife Nature Records Centre, 2018. Fife Nature Records Centre combined dataset. Occurrence dataset: https://doi.org/10.15468/ccc1ip accessed via GBIF.org on 2018-09-27.

  15. Fife Nature Records Centre, 2018. St Andrews BioBlitz 2014. Occurrence dataset: https://doi.org/10.15468/erweal accessed via GBIF.org on 2018-09-27.

  16. Fife Nature Records Centre, 2018. St Andrews BioBlitz 2015. Occurrence dataset: https://doi.org/10.15468/xtrbvy accessed via GBIF.org on 2018-09-27.

  17. Glasgow Museums BRC, 2017. Mammal records for Clyde Faunal Area, 1850 to 2007. Occurrence dataset: https://doi.org/10.15468/fphygc accessed via GBIF.org on 2018-09-27.

  18. Greater Manchester Ecology Unit, 2018. Distribution of Species of Conservation Interest in Greater Manchester. Occurrence dataset: https://www.tameside.gov.uk/ecologyunit accessed via NBNAtlas.org on 2018-09-27.

  19. Hebridean Whale and Dolphin Trust, 2018. Visual sightings data set 2003-2017. Occurrence dataset: https://hwdt.org/ accessed via NBNAtlas.org on 2018-09-27.

  20. John Muir Trust, 2017. Species Records for John Muir Trust Properties 2007-2009. Occurrence dataset: https://doi.org/10.15468/p5lw5z accessed via GBIF.org on 2018-09-27.

  21. John Muir Trust, 2017. Species Records for John Muir Trust Properties Nevis, Sandwood, Quinag and Schiehallion 2010.. Occurrence dataset: https://doi.org/10.15468/n9dwn0 accessed via GBIF.org on 2018-09-27.

  22. Lancashire Environment Record Network, 2018. LERN Records. Occurrence dataset: https://doi.org/10.15468/esxc9a accessed via GBIF.org on 2018-10-01.

  23. Leicestershire and Rutland Environmental Records Centre, 2017. Leicestershire and Rutland Protected and Conservation Priority/BAP Specie. Occurrence dataset: https://doi.org/10.15468/7ve2nt accessed via GBIF.org on 2018-10-01.

  24. Merseyside BioBank., 2017. Merseyside BioBank (verified). Occurrence dataset: https://doi.org/10.15468/ar0p6s accessed via GBIF.org on 2018-10-01.

  25. Merseyside BioBank., 2018. Merseyside BioBank (unverified). Occurrence dataset: https://doi.org/10.15468/iou2ld accessed via GBIF.org on 2018-10-01.

  26. National Biodiversity Network (NBN) Atlas website. Available from: https://www.nbnatlas.org.

  27. National Trust, 2017. National Trust Species Records. Occurrence dataset: https://doi.org/10.15468/opc6g1 accessed via GBIF.org on 2018-10-01.

  28. National Trust, 2017. Wicken Fen nature reserve species data held by The National Trust. Occurrence dataset: https://doi.org/10.15468/iqeemg accessed via GBIF.org on 2018-10-01.

  29. National Trust, 2018. Heigham Holmes species data held by The National Trust. Occurrence dataset: https://doi.org/10.15468/wf8xpt accessed via GBIF.org on 2018-10-01.

  30. National Trust, 2018. Wimpole Estate species data held by The National Trust. Occurrence dataset: https://doi.org/10.15468/l8oy9m accessed via GBIF.org on 2018-10-01.

  31. Norfolk Biodiversity Information Service, 2017. NBIS Records to December 2016. Occurrence dataset: https://doi.org/10.15468/jca5lo accessed via GBIF.org on 2018-10-01.

  32. North East Scotland Biological Records Centre, 2017. North East Scotland Terrestrial Mammals 1900-2017 (excluding squirrels, wild cats and marine mammals). Occurrence dataset: https://doi.org/10.15468/qt0mly accessed via GBIF.org on 2018-10-01.

  33. OBIS,  2018. Global map of species distribution using gridded data. Available from: Ocean Biogeographic Information System. www.iobis.org. Accessed: 2018-11-18

  34. Outer Hebrides Biological Recording, 2018. Otter (Lutra lutra), Outer Hebrides. Occurrence dataset: https://doi.org/10.15468/tmvgpk accessed via GBIF.org on 2018-10-01.

  35. Outer Hebrides Biological Recording, 2018. Vertebrates (except birds, INNS and restricted records), Outer Hebrides. Occurrence dataset: https://doi.org/10.15468/dax3tf accessed via GBIF.org on 2018-10-01.

  36. Project Splatter, 2017. UK Roadkill Records. Occurrence dataset: https://doi.org/10.15468/r3xakd accessed via GBIF.org on 2018-10-01.

  37. Record, 2017. RECORD Mammal Data. Occurrence dataset: https://doi.org/10.15468/alecvo accessed via GBIF.org on 2018-10-02.

  38. Rotherham Biological Records Centre, 2017. Rotherham Biological Records Centre - Non-sensitive Records from all taxonomic groups. Occurrence dataset: https://doi.org/10.15468/d3tufo accessed via GBIF.org on 2018-10-02.

  39. South East Wales Biodiversity Records Centre, 2018. SEWBReC Mammals (South East Wales). Occurrence dataset: https://doi.org/10.15468/atlxpp accessed via GBIF.org on 2018-10-02.

  40. South East Wales Biodiversity Records Centre, 2018. Dr Mary Gillham Archive Project. Occurance dataset: http://www.sewbrec.org.uk/ accessed via NBNAtlas.org on 2018-10-02

  41. Staffordshire Ecological Record, 2017. Data from Defra Family Organisations supplied to Staffordshire Ecological Record. Occurrence dataset: https://doi.org/10.15468/giebpp accessed via GBIF.org on 2018-10-02

  42. Staffordshire Ecological Record, 2017. SER Site-based Surveys. Occurrence dataset: https://doi.org/10.15468/h2yko0 accessed via GBIF.org on 2018-10-02.

  43. Staffordshire Ecological Record, 2017. SER Species-based Surveys. Occurrence dataset: https://doi.org/10.15468/q8qen3 accessed via GBIF.org on 2018-10-02.

  44. Staffordshire Ecological Record, 2017. Staffordshire Wildlife Trust Nature Reserves Inventory. Occurrence dataset: https://doi.org/10.15468/vhdows accessed via GBIF.org on 2018-10-02.

  45. Suffolk Biodiversity Information Service., 2017. Suffolk Biodiversity Information Service (SBIS) Dataset. Occurrence dataset: https://doi.org/10.15468/ab4vwo accessed via GBIF.org on 2018-10-02.

  46. The British Association for Shooting and Conservation, 2018. UK casual records from members of BASC - 1980 onwards. Occurance dataset: https://basc.org.uk/ accessed via NBNAtlas.org on 2018-10-02.

  47. The Mammal Society, 2018. Derek Crawley Images. Occurance dataset: http://www.mammal.org.uk/ accessed via NBNAtlas.org on 2018-10-02.

  48. The Mammal Society., 2017. National Mammal Atlas Project, online recording. Occurrence dataset: https://doi.org/10.15468/i2eosa accessed via GBIF.org on 2018-10-02.

  49. The Wildlife Information Centre, 2017. Biological Recording in Scotland - Scotsman Wildlife Surveys. Occurrence dataset: https://doi.org/10.15468/t50yhv accessed via GBIF.org on 2018-10-02.

  50. The Wildlife Information Centre, 2017. LWIC - Local Patch Project. Occurrence dataset http://www.wildlifeinformation.co.uk/. Accessed via NBNAtlas.org/ on 2018-10-02.

  51. The Wildlife Information Centre, 2017. Natalie Harmsworth's Records (2010-2016). Occurrence dataset http://www.wildlifeinformation.co.uk/. Accessed via NBNAtlas.org/ on 2018-10-02.

  52. The Wildlife Information Centre, 2017. Ron McBeath records (2010 - 2014). Occurrence dataset http://www.wildlifeinformation.co.uk/. Accessed via NBNAtlas.org/ on 2018-10-02.

  53. The Wildlife Information Centre, 2017. The Wildlife Information Centre - LBS Network Strategic Survey. Occurrence dataset: https://doi.org/10.15468/7l4izb accessed via GBIF.org on 2018-10-02.

  54. The Wildlife Information Centre, 2018. Borders Backyard Biodiversity. Occurrence dataset: https://doi.org/10.15468/jfymio accessed via GBIF.org on 2018-10-02.

  55. The Wildlife Information Centre, 2018. David Dodds Associates Ltd - Species Records. Occurrence dataset: https://doi.org/10.15468/ie4asf accessed via GBIF.org on 2018-10-02.

  56. The Wildlife Information Centre, 2018. TWIC Biodiversity Field Trip Data (1995-present). Occurrence dataset: https://doi.org/10.15468/ljc0ke accessed via GBIF.org on 2018-10-02.

  57. West Wales Biodiversity Information Centre, 2018. Mammal Records (West Wales). Occurrence dataset: https://doi.org/10.15468/vitiic accessed via GBIF.org on 2018-10-02.

  58. Whale and Dolphin Conservation, 2018. WDC Shorewatch Sightings. Occurrence dataset: https://doi.org/10.15468/9vuieb accessed via GBIF.org on 2018-10-02.

  59. Yorkshire Wildlife Trust, 2018. Yorkshire Wildlife Trust - Non-sensitive records from all taxonomic groups. Occurrence dataset: https://doi.org/10.15468/2razk5 accessed via GBIF.org on 2018-10-02.

Citation

This review can be cited as:

Wilson, C.M. 2017. Lutra lutra Eurasian river otter. In Tyler-Walters H. and Hiscock K. (eds) Marine Life Information Network: Biology and Sensitivity Key Information Reviews, [on-line]. Plymouth: Marine Biological Association of the United Kingdom. [cited 18-11-2018]. Available from: https://www.marlin.ac.uk/species/detail/2317

Last Updated: 11/12/2017

Tags: Eurasian river otter Lutra lutra