Finally, we have a European otter (Lutra Lutra) on camera!

Over the last few years our ecologists have been monitoring watercourses as part of project works to identify species present. Although we have found evidence of otter activity, such as feeding remains and sprints, the animals themselves have remained elusive, even avoiding our cameras! That is until now…

Finally, we have an otter on camera – and it has caught some dinner!

Otters are one of the UK’s top predators and is a large, powerful mammal, with grey-brown fur, a broad snout, and a pale chest and throat. Otters can be distinguished from mink by their much larger size and broader face. Otters feed mainly on fish (particularly eels and salmonids), water birds, amphibians and crustaceans.

Otters remain rare in the UK but are a widespread species.  They are now found throughout the country; however, they remain absent from parts of central and southern England, the Isle of Man, the Isles of Scilly and the Channel Islands. Otters require clean rivers, with an abundant source of food and plenty of vegetation to hide their secluded holts.

Otters are well suited to a life on the water as they have webbed feet and dense fur to keep them warm. Among mammals, otters have the thickest fur made up of two layers of fur – the longer hairs and the undercoat. The fur of otters does not just keep them warm but also helps them stay buoyant by trapping air close to their skin.

Various terms are used to refer to a group of otters. The collective nouns for otters are raft, romp, family, bevy and lodge. The term or name usually depends on where they are or what they are doing. For example, raft is used for groups of otters hanging in the water. Meanwhile, otters on land displaying playful behaviours are often referred to as romp.

European otter is the only species of otter indigenous to the UK and Europe. Because of its precarious status throughout much of Europe, the species has been subject to increasing national and international legislation pertaining to the conservation of the species. Such is the legal framework established that it is not only an offence to kill, trap or harm the otter, it is also an offence to disturb the species, as well as its breeding and resting sites, and to damage its habitat.

Stewart Parsons