Sorry for the late posts today, still chasing my tail after a manic day yesterday!
The Eurasian otter is one of 13 species of otter which ranges over Europe and into Asia and parts of Africa.
In the UK, they now occur in every county in England, and in Scotland, Wales and Ireland, but between 1950 and 1990, it was effectively wiped out in most of it’s traditional range (except Scotland and parts of Ireland) due to habitat loss, poor fish stocks, increased road traffic and water pollution from pesticides. The otter remains on the IUNC Red list 2004 and is still classified as Near Threatened. They are believed to be extinct in the Netherlands, Lichtenstein and Switzerland.
The Eurasian otter is brown furred, with a lighter patch beneath its chin and throat. It has the classic long and sleek mustelid body with partially webs paws for swimming. An adult male may be up to 4 feet long and 30lbs. Females are smaller, around 16lbs typically. The Eurasian otter’s nose is about the smallest among the otter species and has a characteristic shape described as a shallow ‘W’
Their diet consists of mainly of fish, but during winter and in colder environments, they may eat frogs, insects, birds, crustaceans and occasionally small mammals. Because they have a varied diet, they can inhabit any fresh water body such as lochs/lakes, rivers and streams, and ponds. Some can live along the coast but must have access to fresh water to clean their fur, as salt water clogs their fur and inhibits insulation.
Otters are generally solitary creatures, coming together to breed. The males territory ranges between 8 and 25 miles, which is larger than the female range, averaging between 5 to 11 miles. They are territorial against members of the same sex, so male and female territory can overlap, particularly during breeding season. They are non-seasonal breeders, meaning they can breed at any time of year, dependent on individual maturity. Females reach sexual maturity between 18 and 24 months and usual have their first brood around 2-3 years old. Gestation is usually 60-64 days and between 1 – 4 pups are born blind, toothless and practically immobile and remain dependent on mum for at least 13 months.
Loch of the Lowes info page updated