Otters | Wildlife & Habitats | Nottinghamshire Wildlife Trust
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Otters

The inquisitive, playful otter is one of Britain’s best known and well loved wild animals. Up until the 1970’s otters were found throughout Britain. They have subsequently all but disappeared from most counties apart from parts of Scotland, Wales and the south west of England. In the last few years, conservation efforts have started to show results and they are staging a good comeback. 

Features

Otters are superbly adapted for living in and around wet places.  They have webbed feet, stream-lined bodies, thick rudder like tails and dense fur for waterproofing, which is brown above and cream on the belly and chin.  They are very shy animals and most active at night.  It is more usual to see their droppings than an otter itself!  The males weigh about 10 Kg, females are shorter and lighter than the males.

Habitat

Otters live by undisturbed waters where there is plenty of cover, for example by freshwater lakes, rivers, and some smaller streams. They can also be found along some parts of the coast. They need large stretches of water (20-40 km) with vegetation for cover, and plenty of fish to eat. They make their homes in the river bank in special dens known as holts. Otters are a good indicator of clean water, free from pollutants.

Food

Otters eat mostly fish, especially eels, and will also eat frogs and waterside birds. Food is usually carried to the shore.  If the prey is small the otter will carry it in its teeth; it eats with its prey held in its forepaws. Otters do not breath under water, they are able to close off their nostrils and ears when they dive. They also have high amounts of haemoglobin in their blood cells, this allows lots of oxygen to be stored in the blood for use whilst under the water. 

Breeding

The otters found in Great Britain (the Eurasian otter) breed in Spring (otters in northern Scotland may also breed in the Autumn). The mother carries her young for nine weeks before giving birth to 2 or 3 cubs. The cubs are blind until 4-5 weeks old and at 10 weeks they are able to wander from the den. They will not live independently until around 13-15 months old. They will then find themselves partners at about two years of age.

Other facts

The decline of otter populations has been due to a number of reasons, including: 

  • Pollution of waterways, poisoning otters and their prey, destroying the food chain. The pollution comes from pesticides washing out of fields, heavy metals from industrial waste and oil run-off from roads.
  • Loss of habitat to housing developments and agriculture, and disturbance.

Along the River Trent area The Trent Otters and Rivers Project is working to restore otter populations. The project spans the counties of Lincolnshire , Warwickshire, Derbyshire, Leicestershire, Staffordshire and Nottinghamshire. The Wildlife Trusts are working with other organisations such as the Environment Agency, Severn Trent Water, other landowners and the Highways Agency to protect and restore riverside habitats. They are training volunteers to help with surveys and habitat improvements, and constructing artificial otter holts.  They are also helping to educate and advise landowners, fishing bodies and schools as to how every one can help to encourage the return of the otter to our rivers.

You can also download and print this Otters fact sheet

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