Otters feed mainly on fish although occasionally water birds or frogs are taken. An otter can eat up to 15% of its own bodyweight in fish every day. This can bring otters into conflict with people who manage watercourses and fisheries.
Otter (Lutra lutra)
Otters were once widespread across the UK, but hunting, for fur, sport and the protection of fish stocks, as well as pollution of the rivers by insecticides contributed to a sharp decline in numbers.
In recent years a combination of measures has led to otter numbers beginning to recover, these include:
• Legal protection for otters and their habitats
• Work by government agencies to clean up the rivers by controlling pollution
• Creation and management of otter habitats
• The re-introduction of otters
Otters can be found in clean rivers and lakes and around the coast. Coastal otters need access to fresh water in order to clean the salt from their fur. Otters make their holts in riverbanks in areas which are hidden by tree roots and other vegetation. The holt is lined with reeds, grass and moss and serves as a resting place and a place to rear cubs.
As mentioned above the loss of habitat illegal hunting and killing of otters together with pollution of watercourses all pose a threat to otters. These issues have been addressed and the combination of legislation and conservation has led to an increase of 55% in occupied sites between 1994 and 2002.