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. 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. Visit mammal.org.uk. 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. 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.). On the Shetland Islands, some otters have been known to abandon fishing in favour of rabbit hunting. Spotted-necked otter. The Sea Otter is the only species that have a shorter and less muscular tail. 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. 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. However, between the 1950s and 1970s, their numbers significantly dropped, prompting conservationists to sound the alarm bells for one of UK’s beloved animals. @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. Prior to the 1950s, these fish-devouring mammals were abundant in England. In local areas its presence will depend on the provision of suitable aquatic habitats, sufficient food and cover fo… 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. This soft layer closest to their skin traps air, which gives good insulation. They are friendly and playful which is why they’re one of the well-loved animals in the world. The oldest recorded otter reached around 12 years of age, but this is exceptional. While hunting and habitat loss played a part, pollution of our waterways from agricultural chemicals was devastating to otter populations. © 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. Otters seek clean rivers, filled with food and overgrown banks where they can raise their cubs. Otters aren’t the best at covering their tracks which is a great help to anyone on the lookout for one. Male Otters are called boars, females are sows, and the offspring are pups. Otter causing great excitement in the entrance ditch at Slimbridge WWT this lunchtime! Posted in: Species. They also eat crustaceans, frogs and even small water birds. They have two types of fur, … They also eat crustaceans, frogs and even small water birds. Though still considered rare, the species is widespread in the UK and can be seen in almost every county. Otters are carnivorous mammals with thick fur and webbed feet. Look for a muddy, semi-circular slide into the river. Few animals among Britain’s native wildlife are as endearing as otters. 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. Ask anyone what their favourite wetland animal is and many will say it’s an otter. In Norfolk by the 1970s most traditional otter sites were deserted and whole river systems no longer supported any otters. 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. 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. The Non-native Species Secretariat has responsibility for helping to coordinate the approach to invasive non-native species in Great Britain. Reports now state that otters inhabit every county in the UK – great news for the otter! They occur throughout Northern Ireland in both freshwater and coastal habitats. Otters: surveys and mitigation for development ... - GOV.UK Until 1998, it was thought to have been extinct, but small populations have been discovered since then. The return of the otter to waterways across the country is one of the UK’s top conservation success stories. 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. 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). 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? Today, the species is flourishing across Scotland, and recovering well across the UK as waterways are cleaned up. Otter droppings, or spraints, are often used to mark territory – look for them along the river bank or on rocks. Otters feed at dawn and dusk so the two hours before are generally the best time for otter spotting. Otters are largely solitary, semi-aquatic mammals that get most of their food from lochs, rivers or the sea. Otters declined catastrophically throughout England in the late 1950s. The little owl is a native animal of the United Kingdom, and it was introduced in this region in the 19th century. 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. At WWT we have wild otters living on all our reserves. Today though, otters have returned to most of their former haunts in Norfolk. 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. agreeing to use our cookies. Ireland 's otters are geographically widespread and believed to be the most stable population in Europe. A raft typically contains 10 to 100 animals, but the largest raft ever seen contained over 2000 sea otters. Please visit our updated privacy An adult North American river otter can weigh between 5.0 and 14 kg (11.0 and 30.9 lb). Where do otters live? 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. 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. There are 13 extant species of otter around the world, one of which is native to the UK. In Ireland the otter population is geographically widely spread. In the past, this species was widely employed throughout its range by fishermen, with trained animals being highly valued. Otters and their mustelid relatives were once hunted extensively for their fur, many to the point of near extinction. Also known as the Cape clawless otter, the African clawless otter is found through much of sub-Saharan Africa. This animal can easily be observed during the day as it rests on tree branches or rocks. In freshwater they feed on trout and salmon. Otters in the UK face several new dangers, despite their success in recolonising some of their old haunts. As of 2011, they can be found in every English county, including some urban rivers. Threats to their recovery include habitat loss, severe flooding, and road traffic. Though they typically forage alone, sea otters tend to rest together and link arms in single-sex groups called rafts. 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. They are fast, naturally secretive and usually nocturnal. The Minch waters between Skye and the Outer Hebrides, where many otters live, is still a major tanker route. The indented coast lines, rich in seaweed and with freshwater nearby in rivers and pools make the perfect otter habitat. This species occurs throughout the USA and Canada, and has been reintroduced to midwestern USA in order to expand its distribution. Known for their playfulness, otters are found all over the world including the UK. It is one of the rarest otter species. In Italy, they can be found in southern parts of the peninsula. 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. They leave the protection of their mothers at 10 – 12 months and can breed at 2 years old. Seeing the signs of otters is far easier than seeing the animals themselves. There are 13 different types of otter, including river, sea, giant, African clawless and hairy nosed otter. It is a man-made landscape impacted by natural processes - the open water is a result of flooded peat diggings. Otters communicate using their spraint (droppings). However, following a series of escapes and releases, by 1956 it was apparent that there was a self-sustaining feral population. Along riverbanks and waterways, look for five-toed footprints (about 6-7cm long) and droppings or 'spraints'. Otters have a long, slim body with a powerful tail which they use when swimming. They are creatures of habit and tend to follow the same routes, travelling as much on land as they do in water. 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. Wildlife Photographer of the Year 2020 – The People’s Choice Award, Namibian fishing laws cut seabird deaths by more than 90%, Hippo guide: species facts and the best places to see in the wild. Otters are regularly recorded here, and there is also the chance to see large numbers of wildfowl in winter. They are a greeny black colour and are often described as smelling like flowers! Author Miriam Darlington, in her book Otter Country, described the hide at Kylerhea on Skye as an ‘Otter haven’. You can discover some of our favourite otter facts here: Editorial and digital co-ordinator at BBC Wildlife Magazine, and countryfile.com. Lutrinae is a branch of the Mustelidae family , which also includes weasels , badgers , mink , and wolverines , among other animals. Welcome to the UK Wild Otter Trust! As the largest otter, it can reach up to 2m in length. 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. Sea otters are native to the coasts of the northern and eastern North Pacific Ocean. In India, the species is distributed in the Himalayan foothills, southern Western Ghats and the central Indian landscape. We use cookies on this site to improve your user experience. Male otters are known as “dogs”, females are “bitches” and the offspring are “pups”. Beautiful, sleek and playful, otters are a joy to watch as they twist and dive in the water. Otters are thought to be especially vulnerable to the effects of oil. It is a gregarious species, living in groups of up to 20 individuals, and will attack potential predators such as caimans. 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! On boulders or rocks either in river or near the river, A group of river otters is known as a romp. Otters consume mainly fish but many people think that they eat plants and berries. Already have an account with us? This species is known to mostly feed on beetles, worms, birds and other small mammals. In the wild, the distribution range of this species includes India, Taiwan and southern China. The 13 extant otter species are all semiaquatic , aquatic or marine , with diets based on fish and invertebrates . Newborns are only about 12cm long but grow quickly and can swim at three months. 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. 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. American mink Mustela vison were introduced to the UK at the beginning of the 20th century, and are now considered an invasive species. The giant otter is found in South America in a range of countries including Peru, Venezuela and Brazil. 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. The river otter is protected and insulated by a thick, water-repellent coat of fur. Extremely few individuals survive in Vietnam, southern Thailand, Sumatra and Cambodia, mainly due to poaching. 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. The South American river otter can be found in marine, freshwater, and terrestrial habitats throughout Chile and Argentina. 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. The Scottish population is estimated to be around 8000 otters. 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. 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. Perhaps the most foolproof location for otters is the Isle of Mull. 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. By entering your details, you are agreeing to Discover Wildlife terms and conditions and privacy policy. 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. At Slimbridge there are regular otter visitors to the Kingfisher Hide and at Washington otters have made the saline lagoon their home. 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. It is found in the rainforests of the Congo basin including Democratic Republic of Congo, Equitorial Guinea and Gabon. 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! Sign in to manage your newsletter preferences. It is common in Lake Victoria and Zambia, but not in some lakes and rivers, such as in the Zambezi below the Victoria Falls. 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. They also regularly crop up on the Llanelli reserve in Wales. Summary. Because otters eat mainly fish, you’ll generally find them in areas where there are plenty of this food source. 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!) 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. Their favourite habitats include wetlands, rivers and coastlines. Due to trapping, water pollution and habitat degradation, the numbers of North American river otter had declined through most of their range by the early 1900s. Otters leave spraints in prominent places, such as fallen trees, weirs and bridges, as 'scented messages', helping them to find mates and defend territories. The South Korean population is endangered. About the National Non-Native Species Secretariat. Keep an eye out for them: Today an otter’s main threat is from what we put in the water. There are 13 extant species of otter around the world, one of which is native to the UK. We are a Devon-based charity dedicated to protecting and promoting a positive understanding of the European otter and its conservation.We want everyone to be able to engage with and appreciate these beautiful animals, and we work hard to raise awareness, educate, and share information in as many ways as possible! They are native … Otters are noisy creatures and you might well hear them before you see them. policy for further information about how we use your personal information. You're now subscribed to our newsletter. 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. Try 3 issues of BBC Wildlife Magazine for just £5! 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