Sign in to manage your newsletter preferences. If you don’t see one, you can always visit Martin Mere or London Wetland Centre to see some of our resident Asian-short clawed, or Slimbridge to see our North American river otters (they’re not nocturnal, so you’re more likely to get a glimpse.). Keep an ear out for scrabbling, splashing and squeaking. There is some debate as to whether the Congo clawless otter is a separate species to the African clawless otter (A.capensis), but it is considered a separate species by the IUCN Otter Specialist Group. The oldest recorded otter reached around 12 years of age, but this is exceptional. The South Korean population is endangered. In Norfolk by the 1970s most traditional otter sites were deserted and whole river systems no longer supported any otters. Ireland 's otters are geographically widespread and believed to be the most stable population in Europe. Otters are largely solitary, semi-aquatic mammals that get most of their food from lochs, rivers or the sea. By the 1970s, otters were restricted mainly to Scotland, especially the islands and the north-west coast, western Wales, parts of East Anglia and the West Country (though they remained common and widespread also in Ireland). Their favourite habitats include wetlands, rivers and coastlines. On boulders or rocks either in river or near the river, A group of river otters is known as a romp. The 13 extant otter species are all semiaquatic , aquatic or marine , with diets based on fish and invertebrates . The Scottish population is estimated to be around 8000 otters. The indented coast lines, rich in seaweed and with freshwater nearby in rivers and pools make the perfect otter habitat. The river otter is protected and insulated by a thick, water-repellent coat of fur. Reports now state that otters inhabit every county in the UK – great news for the otter! At Slimbridge there are regular otter visitors to the Kingfisher Hide and at Washington otters have made the saline lagoon their home. They breed all year round, but in the UK otters tend to have their young (called pups) in the summer months so at this time of year, you stand a better chance of glimpsing a sight of them in rivers and coastal wetlands. The position of its eyes are high on its head which means it can see out of the water whilst the rest of its body stays submerged below - like a hippo! But don't mistakenly call these beasts 'sea otters' – they are still our native otter, and not the different North American sea otter. In the UK, otters almost became extinct in the fifties and sixties because of rivers contaminated with chemical residues. Over 100 different components have been identified within otter droppings and some of these are thought to contain information on sex, age and even individual recognition which can be used by other otters, All otters basically have two layers of fur - a longer outer layer and a softer denser layer underneath. Type: Mammal Location: One of the widest distributions of a UK mammal species, the Eurasian Otter is found throughout Europe, eastern Russia and China, south and south east Asia and north Africa. Male otters are known as “dogs”, females are “bitches” and the offspring are “pups”. Otters have five claws so it’s easy to tell an otter footprint from most other animals. Eurasian otter numbers began declining in the 1950s until the species became almost extinct in England and Wales, although a small population survived in Scotland. Following a period of serious decline between the 1950s and 1970s when the species was driven to near extinction in some areas, these water-dwelling mammals have made a comeback in every county in England and beyond. Otters are known to compete against foreign species such as mink that have been devastating populations of small native mammals such as the water vole, which has declined to … Threats to their recovery include habitat loss, severe flooding, and road traffic. The west coast of the Highlands, the Isle of Skye and the Isle of Mull are great otter strongholds, where they can be hard to miss. There are 13 extant species of otter around the world, one of which is native to the UK. Author Miriam Darlington, in her book Otter Country, described the hide at Kylerhea on Skye as an ‘Otter haven’. Also known as Oriental small-clowed otters, these otters are often seen in zoos, which makes them one of the more familiar otter species for many people. Sea otters are native to the coasts of the northern and eastern North Pacific Ocean. Known for their playfulness, otters are found all over the world including the UK. Otters consume mainly fish but many people think that they eat plants and berries. Their varied and adaptable diets mean they may inhabit any unpolluted body of fresh water, including lakes, streams, rivers, and ponds, as long as there are adequate food supplies. Prior to the 1950s, these fish-devouring mammals were abundant in England. They are friendly and playful which is why they’re one of the well-loved animals in the world. This species has the widest distribution of all the Lontra species, from northern and central Argentina up through south and central America to northwest Mexico. The marine otter is found along the western coast of the South American continent, with patchy distribution due to some unsuitable habitat and increased human occupation. American mink Mustela vison were introduced to the UK at the beginning of the 20th century, and are now considered an invasive species. They predate heavily on native animals and are strongly implicated in dramatic declines in water vole Arvicola terrestris populations, a species now considered endangered over much of the country. There are many reasons for this, including their small size, a high metabolic rate, a complete reliance on their fur for thermal isolation and long periods spent floating in the water where oil has collected. They are creatures of habit and tend to follow the same routes, travelling as much on land as they do in water. This species can grow quite large, almost as big as the giant otter, and weigh up to 18kg. This species occurs throughout the USA and Canada, and has been reintroduced to midwestern USA in order to expand its distribution. Also known as the Cape clawless otter, the African clawless otter is found through much of sub-Saharan Africa. The fur of this species is smoother and shorter than that of other otters, and they use scent to communicate both within the otter species, and with other animals. An isolated population of the species is also found in the marshes of Iraq indicating the range must once have been wider. Wetland wildlife. In Ireland the otter population is geographically widely spread. The presence of otters tells us a lot about the health of our wetlands, the healthier a wetland and our waterways are the more otters it will be supporting. This species is the most widely distributed of all the otters, ranging through Eurasia up to the Arctic Circle, from Ireland to Kamchatka, and south to North Africa, Sri Lanka and Indonesia. Otters are ready to reproduce when they are from 2 to 3 years of age. Species. An adult North American river otter can weigh between 5.0 and 14 kg (11.0 and 30.9 lb). Already have an account with us? Otters aren’t the best at covering their tracks which is a great help to anyone on the lookout for one. policy for further information about how we use your personal information. Unlike Otters, Mink are a non-native species (see Nature Notes, 6th September 2019), imported to the UK from the late 1920s, and farmed for their fur. Discover more fascinating facts about giant otters in our fact file by the International Otter Survival Fund. This otter is found in coastal areas and on larger inland rivers across Southeast Asia (Myanmar, South Thailand, Cambodia, South Vietnam and Peninsular Malaysia, including Sumatra and Borneo). Though they typically forage alone, sea otters tend to rest together and link arms in single-sex groups called rafts. There are 13 extant species of otter around the world, one of which is native to the UK. They are definitely meat eaters. They have two types of fur, … These include webbed feet and the ability to close their nostrils and ears when under water. Otters have a long, slim body with a powerful tail which they use when swimming. Status: Near Threatened … Otter cubs only open their eyes about five weeks after they are born. We use cookies on this site to improve your user experience. you can book a tour with Richard Shucksmith, co-author of ‘Otters in Shetland: the Tale of the Draatsi’ Are otters a native species to Shetland? Otter numbers in the UK have increased slightly in recent years but the Eurasian otter is still classed as … A raft typically contains 10 to 100 animals, but the largest raft ever seen contained over 2000 sea otters. It is found most often in areas with protection from the most severe ocean winds, such as rocky coastlines, thick kelp forests, and barrier reefs. Otters are shy and elusive creatures, so if you really want to see them when you visit Shetland (when we’re open for business again!) It is common in Lake Victoria and Zambia, but not in some lakes and rivers, such as in the Zambezi below the Victoria Falls. The North American river otter (Lontra canadensis), also known as the northern river otter or common otter, is a semiaquatic mammal endemic to the North American continent found in and along its waterways and coasts. The little owl is a native animal of the United Kingdom, and it was introduced in this region in the 19th century. However, following a series of escapes and releases, by 1956 it was apparent that there was a self-sustaining feral population. By continuing to use our site, you are However, between the 1950s and 1970s, their numbers significantly dropped, prompting conservationists to sound the alarm bells for one of UK’s beloved animals. Otters declined catastrophically throughout England in the late 1950s. Beautiful, sleek and playful, otters are a joy to watch as they twist and dive in the water. Talk to any fisherman along the coast, and you’re likely to hear that they just saw one that morning – sometimes trying to pillage their catch! Look for a muddy, semi-circular slide into the river. Eurasian otters are indigenous to the UK and can be found in either fresh or salt water, although it’s usually known as the river otter for the obvious reason. @slimbridge_wild @WWTSlimbridge pic.twitter.com/nJh84PUOpM, A couple of shots of the otter at WWT Llanelli @WWTLlanelli @WWTworldwide @WWTconservation @strictlysophie @wildlife_uk pic.twitter.com/9YTWHJ8RPO. While hunting and habitat loss played a part, pollution of our waterways from agricultural chemicals was devastating to otter populations. Otter causing great excitement in the entrance ditch at Slimbridge WWT this lunchtime! Mating occurs at any time of the year and females give birth to 2 – 3 cubs, usually between May and August. More and more traces of drugs and medicines, and the plastic pellets found in exfoliants, are being found in rivers, and they’re also being found in otters’ bodies. The Non-native Species Secretariat has responsibility for helping to coordinate the approach to invasive non-native species in Great Britain. Otters are carnivorous mammals with thick fur and webbed feet. The males are the ones that seek out the females when they are ready to mate. Otters communicate using their spraint (droppings). For many years our native Eurasian or European otter (scientific name Lutra Lutra) has been on the brink of extinction in the UK and spotting one in the wild would have been almost impossible, but today you are more likely to see one than at any time in the last 60 years. Otter droppings, or spraints, are often used to mark territory – look for them along the river bank or on rocks. It is a gregarious species, living in groups of up to 20 individuals, and will attack potential predators such as caimans. Until 1998, it was thought to have been extinct, but small populations have been discovered since then. Smooth-coated otters occur throughout much of the Indian Subcontinent in Java, Sumatra and Borneo, northward to south-western China, east through Nepal and Bhutan and India to Pakistan, excluding the Indus Valley. Keep an eye out for them: Today an otter’s main threat is from what we put in the water. They also regularly crop up on the Llanelli reserve in Wales. Today, the species is flourishing across Scotland, and recovering well across the UK as waterways are cleaned up. As of 2011, they can be found in every English county, including some urban rivers. They also eat crustaceans, frogs and even small water birds. By entering your details, you are agreeing to Discover Wildlife terms and conditions and privacy policy. The giant otter is found in South America in a range of countries including Peru, Venezuela and Brazil. Otters in the UK face several new dangers, despite their success in recolonising some of their old haunts. Otters are carnivorous mammals in the subfamily Lutrinae. You're now subscribed to our newsletter. About the National Non-Native Species Secretariat. Giant river otters are huge at over 1.5 metres in length. Spotted-necked otter. Thanks! Otters are fascinating animals as well as being adorable. Barton Broad - The largest Broad in the Ant Valley. Other sea lochs along Scotland's west coast are similarly rich in otters, which can be seen foraging for food on the water's edge. Despite becoming almost extinct from England and Wales otters have managed to thrive on Scotland’s rugged coastlines and wild moorlands and today otter numbers there are thought to exceed 8,000. At WWT we have wild otters living on all our reserves. The species of otter that occurs in Ireland is called the Eurasian otter and is found in Europe and across Asia to China and Japan. If there Otters habitat is thriving with enough room for them and plenty of food then they may mate more than once in a give season. Extremely few individuals survive in Vietnam, southern Thailand, Sumatra and Cambodia, mainly due to poaching. Visit mammal.org.uk. In the past, this species was widely employed throughout its range by fishermen, with trained animals being highly valued. You can discover some of our favourite otter facts here: Editorial and digital co-ordinator at BBC Wildlife Magazine, and countryfile.com. The number of otters is increasing in Norfolk. Because otters eat mainly fish, you’ll generally find them in areas where there are plenty of this food source. This species once had an extensive distribution from the Cauquenes and Cachapoal Rivers to the Magellan region in Chile, but is now restricted to seven isolated areas from Cautín to Futaleufú due to overhunting. Summary. They are a greeny black colour and are often described as smelling like flowers! They are fast, naturally secretive and usually nocturnal. Origin & Distribution: The otter is a secretive semi-aquatic species which was once widespread in Britain. This is one of the many features they have which is suited to a life in and around water. This soft layer closest to their skin traps air, which gives good insulation. Although the Eurasian otter isn’t a marine animal (don’t confuse it with a sea otter, which are only found in the Pacific) because it can’t survive without fresh water, they are often found in coastal habitats as well as lakes, rivers and streams. Otters are noisy creatures and you might well hear them before you see them. In the wild, the distribution range of this species includes India, Taiwan and southern China. The otter is the only otter native to the UK. They also eat crustaceans, frogs and even small water birds. Few animals among Britain’s native wildlife are as endearing as otters. Eurasian otters are indigenous to the UK and can be found in either fresh or salt water, although it’s usually known as the river otter for the obvious reason. The invasive American mink also has five toes, but the pads are much narrower and the claws more pointed. Their eyes are high on their head so they can still see even when most of their body is submerged underwater. Welcome to the UK Wild Otter Trust! They are native … Try 3 issues of BBC Wildlife Magazine for just £5! You can unsubscribe at any time. – but our river systems still require extensive habitat management to restore them to a healthy level that can sustain fish stocks and wildlife. In India, the species is distributed in the Himalayan foothills, southern Western Ghats and the central Indian landscape. Ask anyone what their favourite wetland animal is and many will say it’s an otter. Meet the adorable members of the otter family from around the world. As the largest otter, it can reach up to 2m in length. Today though, otters have returned to most of their former haunts in Norfolk. Otters are regularly recorded here, and there is also the chance to see large numbers of wildfowl in winter. Perhaps the most foolproof location for otters is the Isle of Mull. In other regions the otter shares aquatic habitats with species specialised to different habitats such as sea otters, but in Ireland the otters that live at the coast and those that occupy our rivers are the same species. The season for mating depends on the region where they live. Scotland is the best place in the UK to see them and particularly on the coast, where they are generally more active during the day. It is a man-made landscape impacted by natural processes - the open water is a result of flooded peat diggings. Posted in: Along riverbanks and waterways, look for five-toed footprints (about 6-7cm long) and droppings or 'spraints'. The longer outer layer of guard hairs is waterproof, and stops water touching their skin at all, which means they don't lose heat that way either from the water leaching away precious body warmth, When it’s underwater the otter can close its ears and nose but can only hold its breath for about 30 seconds. Though still considered rare, the species is widespread in the UK and can be seen in almost every county. On the Shetland Islands, some otters have been known to abandon fishing in favour of rabbit hunting. Small-clawed otters and to a lesser extent the three other otter species found in Southeast Asia—the Eurasian otter, the smooth-coated otter, and the hairy-nosed otter—have become new stars of the regional pet trade. Please visit our updated privacy Otters are thought to be especially vulnerable to the effects of oil. In freshwater they feed on trout and salmon. The South American river otter can be found in marine, freshwater, and terrestrial habitats throughout Chile and Argentina. Lutrinae is a branch of the Mustelidae family , which also includes weasels , badgers , mink , and wolverines , among other animals. Male Otters are called boars, females are sows, and the offspring are pups. They occur throughout Northern Ireland in both freshwater and coastal habitats. The species was driven to near extinction in some areas between the 1950s and 1970s, but thanks to improvements in water quality and greater protection it can once again be found across Northern Ireland, Scotland, Wales and – as of 2011 – every county in England. It is found in the rainforests of the Congo basin including Democratic Republic of Congo, Equitorial Guinea and Gabon. © Ariadne Van Zandbergen/GettyUntil recently, the spotted-necked otter was considered to be part of the Lutra genus, but it is now placed in the Hydrictus genus. In the UK IOSF is the only charity solely dedicated to the conservation, protection and care of otters based on years of scientific research in the UK and around the world. In Italy, they can be found in southern parts of the peninsula. The Neotropical otter is the greatest generalist of all otter species, inhabiting a range of habitats including wastewater treatment plants, rice and sugar cane plantations, drainage ditches and swamps to cold, glacial lakes in the Andes of Ecuador. Otters leave spraints in prominent places, such as fallen trees, weirs and bridges, as 'scented messages', helping them to find mates and defend territories. They are responsible to a Programme Board which represents the relevant governments and agencies of England, Scotland and Wales. agreeing to use our cookies. Even though there are more of them about otters are still hard to spot. In the UK IOSF is the only charity solely dedicated to the conservation, protection and care of otters based on years of scientific research in the UK and around the world. Otters seek clean rivers, filled with food and overgrown banks where they can raise their cubs. Otters and their mustelid relatives were once hunted extensively for their fur, many to the point of near extinction. The Sea Otter is the only species that have a shorter and less muscular tail. Cubs are usually born in a holt in a bank, or between rocks or tree roots. Otters are carnivorous mustelids in the Lutrinae subfamily. It is one of the rarest otter species. Where do otters live? Otters are carnivorous mustelids in the Lutrinae subfamily. 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