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Species Spied: Otter


Species: Otter

An otter at Howsham MillScientific Name: Lutra lutra

Family: Mustelidae (otters, weasels, badgers)

Otters are classified as Near Threatened on the IUCN Red List and are protected in the UK by Schedule 5 of the Wildlife and Countryside Act 1981.

Otter populations declined during the 1950's and 60's largely due to habitat loss and pollution. Otters have a slow rate of population growth so have naturally struggled to bounce back from these losses.

NatureSpy hash't had a huge amount of opportunity to camera trap otters (something we're hoping to change in the near future) but we have had two encounters...

Click on the tabs above to find out more and see to NatureSpy photos and videos of this species.

Posts with otters...

Identification & behaviour

How to identify

Otters are about one meter long, have a slender body and a thick tail. They are adapted to water by having webbed feet and small ears, which can close under water. Otters have thick insulating brown fur and when they swim the top of their head is just visible. When they are on land they move with their back arched in hump shape.

Behaviours you may see

Otters are naturally playful and curious and so offer great entertainment to those lucky camera trappers who capture them.

Camera trap tips

Where to find otters

Once widespread throughout the UK, the common otter is widespread throughout Wales and Scotland, but has returned to nearly every county in England, although they are less common in much of England.

They feed mainly on fish but may also take crustaceans, amphibians, birds and small mammals. They are therefore usually found by clean freshwater habitats (watch it here). However, otters may be found by the coast but you will always find a source of freshwater close by which they require to clean their fur, which is specially adapted for life in the water.

They live in underground holts or nests but be careful when placing camera traps as otters are a protected species. It is illegal to disturb otters or harm their habitat; if you are in any doubt get in touch with Natural England.

In the UK there are a number of 'otter havens' which are managed and protected areas for the species.

Settings & timers

Otters are by their very nature slippery customers when it comes to camera trapping! It's hard to predict when and where they will turn up, so cameras should be left on at all times. You are most likely to capture them during the night however moving along streams and rivers.

Following trails...

They can sometimes leave clues in the form of footprints in the mud. They have five toes but often only four are visible in the footprints, which are large (5-7cm wide, 6-9cm long) and round in shape.

Their spraint (droppings) are usually found on various surfaces near to water and contain fish bones, crustacean shells and fur. Sprainting spots are usually fairly pronounced places as they are used to mark territories.


Otter camera trap videos

References and more information:

Otter – The Mammal Society