A view of the tangled woodland of the Great Bear Forest in Canada, the largest temperate rain forest in the world.. GenusLutra (1)The elusive common otter (Lutra lutra) has sleek brown fur, which is often paler on the underside, and a long lithe body with a thick tail and short legs (2). The vocalisations of the common otter include a high-pitched whistle between a female and her cubs, twittering noises produced during play-fighting and cat-like noises when fighting (2). Common otter biologyCommon otters feed mainly on fish, and the occasional water bird or frog may also be taken (3).
Common otter rangeOnce widespread throughout the UK, the common otter is now largely restricted to Wales, south-west England, Scotland and Northern Ireland (4), is scarce in the east and south-east and absent from central England (5). You can view distribution information for this species at the National Biodiversity Network Gateway. Common otter statusThe common otter is classified as Near Threatened (NT) on the IUCN Red List (1). Common otter threatsCommon otter fur was once highly prized, and for many years the species was hunted for this reason, for 'sport', and to protect fish stocks (2). Common otter conservationSome areas managed as 'otter havens' have been protected against human disturbance and had plenty of vegetation planted (2).


Under the EC Habitats Directive two areas have been proposed as SACs (Special Areas of Conservation) for the common otter. There may be further information about this species available via the National Biodiversity Network Gateway.
Terms of Use - The displayed portlet may be used as a link from your website to ARKive's online content for private, scientific, conservation or educational purposes only. MyARKive offers the scrapbook feature to signed-up members, allowing you to organize your favourite ARKive images and videos and share them with friends. GenusNereocystis (1)Information on bull kelp is currently being researched and written and will appear here shortly. AuthenticationThis information is awaiting authentication by a species expert, and will be updated as soon as possible. GenusPacifastacus (1)Information on the shasta crayfish is currently being researched and written and will appear here shortly.
Adaptations for an aquatic lifestyle include webbed feet (2), the ability to close the small ears and the nose when under water, and very dense, short fur which traps a layer of air to insulate the animal.
Throughout most of Europe and Britain, common otter numbers declined drastically in the late 1950s and early 1960s.


The species action plan produced as part of the UK Biodiversity Action Plan (UK BAP) aims to maintain and expand existing populations and ensure that by the year 2010, breeding populations have been restored to all catchments and coastal areas where post-1960 records exist (6).
Many sensitive hairs ('vibrissae') frame the snout; these help the otter to locate prey (2). Common otters mark their large territories by depositing faeces ('spraints') in various prominent places (3).
In some cases, reintroductions of captive bred otters to parts of the former range have been successful (3), and natural recolonisation has occurred in some areas (2). Furthermore, many otherwise suitable rivers lack enough tall vegetation for otters to conceal their holts and to rest in (3).



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