How to spot an Otter

Tuesday 30th October 2012

Shetland otter cpt Simon KingShetland otter cpt Simon King

Catching a glimpse of a wild otter is something only few are lucky enough to experience.

You can start searching for one of the UK’s rare natural success stories with The Wildlife Trusts’ new guide Great places to see Otters

The Wildlife Trusts’ new online guide provides suggestions of 34 places to look for this elusive and beautiful animal - from inner city Exeter to the hills of Wales where they can been seen hunting wild salmon.

Sightings are far from guaranteed and to increase your chances you’ll need to get up early!

Following near extinction during the middle of the twentieth century as a result of persecution and poisoning from pesticides, otters are now present in every English county, as well as Wales, Scotland and Northern Ireland. 

The Wildlife Trusts have been at the forefront of conservation efforts to restore otter populations. Improved water quality, habitat management and increased protection for otters have all played a part in this remarkable conservation success story.

Sightings are far from guaranteed and to increase your chances you’ll need to get up early!  Please remember that otters are highly sensitive animals – disturbing otters or their habitat is an offence under the Wildlife & Countryside Act so tread carefully and quietly.

The Wildlife Trusts’ Vice President, Bill Oddie, said: 

“It is still a difficult task but you are more likely to get lucky in spotting an otter now than ever before.  The main fact is that you now stand a pretty good chance of coming across an otter virtually anywhere in the country.  I don’t mean up and down the roads or hills but in the rivers – there are now otters recorded in every county – that’s fantastic - and undoubtedly as a result of conservation efforts of Wildlife Trusts and others.”

“To see an otter in the wild is a truly unforgettable experience and something to cherish, said Helen Perkins of The Wildlife Trusts.

“Thanks to the hard work being undertaken by the Environment Agency to get our rivers into better condition and the efforts of volunteers and employees at The Wildlife Trusts’ reserves everywhere, more people are starting to enjoy the fantastic sight of this beautiful mammal.”


Tell-tale signs
Otters can be distinguished from mink by a larger, stronger frame with paler fur and a broader snout and chest.  Otters depend on rivers and waterways, learning to swim at just 10 weeks old.  Webbed feet, dense fur and the ability to close their ears and nose make them adept underwater swimmers.

A helping hand
Creating places for otters to shelter and give birth in, called holts, is just one of the many activities that have contributed to their increased numbers at nature reserves.  In addition, The Wildlife Trusts are constantly seeking help from volunteers in cleaning up waterways and surveying various habitats for otters.

Tagged with: Species