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Eurasian Otter Fact File

Lutra lutra

Weight

7-10kg

(15-22lbs)

Length

57-70cm

(22.5-28in)

Lifespan

Wild 17 years

Captive 22 years

Diet

Carnivore

Fish, Frogs

Conservation Status

IUCN

Near Threatened

The Eurasian otter is as its name suggests a resident of Europe and Asia. Here they make their home near water due to their semi-aquatic lifestyle. Much of their time is spent in the water looking for food such as fish. Each day they may feed on up to 15% of their body weight in meat.

They are colored brown across the back with a pale underside. The feet are webbed to help push them through the water with a long tail also helping with this.

In the spring they will breed and after 60-70 days they will give birth to between 2 and 3 pups in an underground den known as a holt.

Across their range they are threatened by hunting for their coats, food and due to hunting by fishermen who see them as a threat to prized fish stocks. Pollution has also had a major impact on their populations.

Learn more about these magnificent mammals by reading on below.

Appearance

Eurasian otters are colored brown across the back with pale fur on the underside and the throat. Their throat is thick and allows them to keep warm when swimming in areas of icy water.

This coat is waterproof, an adaptation which helps them to swim. They also have webbed feet to help them with swimming. When swimming the fur traps air bubbles to provide insulation.

On either side of the face are long, sensitive whiskers which allow them to find where they are going even in cloudy water. These whiskers can pick up the currents from prey movement to help them detect food.

At the end of the body is a muscular tail which is flattened along its length and helps to push them through the water. This tail measures 35-40cm (10-16in) long.

Eurasian otters are adapted with the eyes, ears and nose near the top of the head which allows them to remain mostly hidden under water so they can check the coast is clear before emerging.

An average Eurasian otter will measure 57-70cm (22.5-28in) long with a weight of 7-10kg (15-22lbs).

Diet


Eurasian otters are carnivores. They feed on fish, shellfish, amphibians and even some water birds such as ducks. As much as 80 percent of their food intake is fish.

Each day they will eat up to 15 percent of their body weight in food.

Eurasian Otter

Range

The Eurasian otter is at their name suggests found across Europe and Asia. Here they live in the following countries – Afghanistan; Albania; Algeria; Andorra; Armenia; Austria; Azerbaijan; Bangladesh; Belarus; Belgium; Bhutan; Bosnia and Herzegovina; Bulgaria; Cambodia; China; Croatia; Czechia; Denmark; Estonia; Finland; France; Georgia; Germany; Gibraltar; Greece; Hong Kong; Hungary; India; Indonesia; Iran, Islamic Republic of; Iraq; Ireland; Israel; Italy; Jordan; Kazakhstan; Democratic People's Republic of Korea; Republic of Korea; Kyrgyzstan; Lao People's Democratic Republic; Latvia; Lebanon; Liechtenstein; Lithuania; Luxembourg; Moldova; Mongolia; Montenegro; Morocco; Myanmar; Nepal; Netherlands; North Macedonia; Norway; Pakistan; Poland; Portugal; Romania; Russia; San Marino; Serbia; Slovakia; Slovenia; Spain; Sri Lanka; Sweden; Switzerland; Syrian Arab Republic; Taiwan, Province of China; Tajikistan; Thailand; Tunisia; Turkey; Turkmenistan; Ukraine; United Kingdom; Uzbekistan and Viet Nam.

The subspecies of these otters which lived in Japan are now believed to be extinct.

Habitat

Eurasian otters are semi-aquatic. They make their home in forest, shrubland, grassland and wetlands. Often they are found in areas with bankside vegetation

They are always found near water. Aquatic habitats used by this species will include lakes, rivers, swamps, streams, marshes and coastal regions.

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Reproduction

Breeding takes place in the spring.


After 60-70 days the mother will give birth to between 2 and 3 cubs. Young may also be known as whelps and pups.


These cubs suckle milk from their mother for 3 months and remain with her for the first year of life.


For nesting the Eurasian otter will make use of holes in the river bank or cavities among roots, rock piles, wood or debris. These burrows are known as holts.


At birth the young are not naturally inclined to go in the water. Instead at around 16 weeks old the mother will drag the young to water for their first swim. Soon though they love the water and will spend hours playing in it.

Mothers teach their young how to hunt by catching a fish and then releasing it near the cubs.

Sexual maturity is reached between 2 and 3 years old. Females tend to mature later than females.

Behavior

While swimming they are able to close their ears and nose to prevent water entering these. While swimming they can remain underwater for up to 30 seconds. To access the water they slide down the riverbank on their belly.

Outside of the breeding season and while raising young these animals are solitary. Each individual maintains a territory which is marked by their droppings known as spraints. These are placed on rocks, driftwood and debris.

These animals are primarily active by night in most of their range though in a few regions they do come out during the day.

While primarily found in freshwater environments they may swim in saltwater in parts of their range. Once they leave the water they will find freshwater to rinse their fur in.

Eurasian otters can produce a range of vocalizations including calls which convey alarm, greeting or mating. Yelps, screams, whimpers and whistles are also created.

Eurasian Otter

Predators and Threats

Natural predators of the Eurasian otter include birds of prey and crocodiles.

Populations saw significant declines during the second half of the 20th century. These were primarily attributed to the use of pesticides. Once these were banned in 1979 numbers began to increase. Some coastal populations are also victims of oil spills.

Previously these otters were viewed as a threat to the livelihood of fisherman. This led to governments such as the one in Switzerland implementing a bounty for each otter that was killed.

In parts of their range they are still the subject of hunting both for their coat and to be turned in to food.

Otters act as a bioindicator as they require fresh water to survive. When their populations begin to decline it indicates that the environment is unhealthy.

Other threats include entanglement in fishing gear such as nets, drowning and vehicle strikes.

Quick facts

The Eurasian otter is also known as the European otter or the common otter.

Eurasian Otter

Photo Credits

Top and Middle Two

MatthiasKabel, CC BY-SA 3.0 <https://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/3.0>, via Wikimedia Commons

Middle One

Alexander Leisser, CC BY-SA 4.0 <https://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/4.0>,

via Wikimedia Commons

Bottom

Public Doamin

References

Burnie, D., 2011. Animal. 3rd ed. London: DK

Ambrose, J., 2015. Wildlife Of The World. 1st ed. London:

Dorling Kindersley IUCN/SSC Otter Specialist Group. 2021. Eurasian Otter (Lutra lutra) | IUCN/SSC Otter Specialist Group. [online] Available at: <https://www.otterspecialistgroup.org/osg-newsite/otr_species/eurasian-otter-lutra-lutra/> [Accessed 12 June 2021].

Wildwood Group. 2021. Eurasian Otter. [online] Available at: <https://wildwoodtrust.org/animals/otters/> [Accessed 12 June 2021].

Kennedy, S. 2003. "Lutra lutra" (On-line), Animal Diversity Web. Accessed June 11, 2021 at https://animaldiversity.org/accounts/Lutra_lutra/

Heartofenglandforest.org. 2021. The Eurasian otter | Heart of England Forest. [online] Available at: <https://heartofenglandforest.org/news/eurasian-otter> [Accessed 12 June 2021].

OneKindPlanet. 2021. Amazing Facts about Otters | OneKindPlanet Animal Education & Facts. [online] Available at: <https://onekindplanet.org/animal/otter-eurasian-european-or-common/> [Accessed 12 June 2021].

Newforestwildlifepark.co.uk. 2021. Eurasian Otter. [online] Available at: <https://newforestwildlifepark.co.uk/animals/mammals/eurasian-otter/> [Accessed 12 June 2021].

Roos, A., Loy, A., de Silva, P., Hajkova, P. & Zemanová, B. 2015. Lutra lutra. The IUCN Red List of Threatened Species 2015: e.T12419A21935287. https://dx.doi.org/10.2305/IUCN.UK.2015-2.RLTS.T12419A21935287.en. Downloaded on 11 June 2021.

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