Somerset Wildlife Trust

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Scientific name: Lutra lutra

The European Otter, also known as the common otter, is a member of the otter subfamily Lutrinae. This subfamily forms part of the family Mustelidae, which also includes weasels and badgers.

Otters have long, slim bodies and relatively short limbs, with webbed paws. Most have sharp claws on their feet, and long muscular tails.They have a very soft, insulated underfur which is protected by their outer layer of long guard hair. This traps a layer of air, and keeps them dry and warm under water.

The European Otter's diet mainly consists of fish. They may inhabit any unpolluted body of freshwater, including lakes, streams, rivers, and ponds. European Otters may also live along the coast, in salt water, but require regular access to freshwater to clean their fur. When living in the sea individuals of this species are sometimes referred to as "sea otters".

European Otters are strongly territorial, living alone for the most part. An individual's territory may vary between about 1 to 40 km in length, with about 18 km being usual. . The territories are only held against members of the same sex, and so those of males and females may overlap.

Hunting mainly takes place at night, while the day is usually spent in the European Otter's holt (den) " usually a burrow or hollow tree on the riverbank which can sometimes only be entered from under water.

Information and photograph courtesy of