(Protected) Pest Of The Week – Otters

Otters have brown fur, often with a pale underside, long slender streamlined body, small ears, long thick tail and webbed feet. An otter’s eyes and nostrils are high on its head, so that it can see and breathe when the rest of its body is submerged. They have small ears which have valves that close against water pressure and big whiskers, ‘vibrissae’, to find food in dark water.

The otter’s main habitat is along the sea shore and the banks of rivers, lakes and streams. They are territorial and their territories cover 1 – 3 km along the sea shore and 5 – 20 km along freshwater rivers and lakes. Otters do not migrate and live in their territories all year round. Their nests are known as ‘holts’ which are lined with grass and are usually in stream banks with an underwater entrance.

Males (dogs) and females (bitches) first breed when they reach 2 years old. There is no breeding ‘season’, although in some areas breeding has been seen to take place in spring. It depends on the availability of food and habitat. In the wild, an average of 1 – 2 young are born in each litter. The young are blind for 35 days and suckled for 6 months. They do not take to the water until they are 2 – 3 months old. They initially fear the water and sometimes have to be pushed in by the mother, who cares for them alone.

Otter’s main food is small fish and crabs, but they are carnivores and will eat almost anything that is easy to catch, including birds in the water and on the shore, small mammals and larger fish such as dogfish.

Otters have no main predator. They are at the top of the food chain and are predators themselves, hunting fish, small mammals and birds. The main threat to otters is from humans, through the destruction of their habitat, from pesticides running off from farmland and polluting watercourses, and from being run over by vehicles while crossing roads and paths.

Otters are classed as European protected species and are fully protected under the Conservation (Natural Habitats, &c.) Regulations 1994. It is an offence to deliberately or recklessly:

  • capture, injure or kill an otter;
  • harass an otter or group of otters;
  • disturb an otter in a holt or any other structure or place it uses for shelter or protection;
  • disturb an otter while it is rearing or otherwise caring for its young;
  • obstruct access to a holt or other structure or place otters use for shelter or protection or to otherwise deny the animal use of that place;
  • disturb an otter in a manner that is, or in circumstances which are, likely to significantly affect the local distribution or abundance of the species;
  • disturb an otter in a manner that is, or in circumstances which are, likely to impair its ability to survive, breed or reproduce, or rear or otherwise care for its young.

It is also an offence to:

  • damage or destroy a breeding site or resting place of such an animal (note that this does not need to be deliberate or reckless to constitute an offence);
  • keep, transport, sell or exchange or offer for sale or exchange any wild otter or any part or derivative of one (if obtained after 10 June 1994)

For advice or further information on Otters in Edinburgh, Glasgow, Aberdeen, Dundee or Perth, call GRAHAM pest control today and we could help