Scotland is home to about 8,000 otters, according to estimates
The otter (Lutra lutra) was lost from most of England and Wales between the 1950s and 1970s due to pesticide contamination of waterways.
But it survived in Scotland’s cleanest waters to the north and west.
Today the species is thriving all over Scotland and is recovering well in the UK as the waterways are being cleaned up. The Scottish population is estimated to be around 8,000 otters.
Otters are largely solitary, semi-aquatic mammals that get most of their food from lakes, rivers or the sea. The Scottish population has an unusually high percentage (perhaps 50% or more) of coastal individuals, feeding almost exclusively in the sea. An otter needs to eat about 1-1.5 kg of prey daily.
Coastal otters are sometimes called ‘sea otters’, but they are exactly the same species as the animals that live further inland. Coastal otters are mainly active during the day and generally have much smaller habitats than their river counterparts, due to the abundance of fish and crustaceans in the coastal waters.
Otters must keep their fur salt-free with fresh water to remain effective as an insulation.
In freshwater, otters mainly feed on fish such as trout, salmon, and eels, as well as spawning frogs and toads in the spring and occasionally on mammals and birds.
Otters living in freshwater habitats are largely nocturnal, occupying very large habitats (about 20 miles for males and 12 miles for females).
‘Holts’ are used for shelter and breeding and can take the form of a cave, natural hole, cave, or other structure (including artificial).
Otters can also rest or seek temporary shelter in above-ground structures called “benches.” Britain’s otters can breed in any month of the year.
The otter belongs to the same family as the badger, the pine marten, the ermine and the weasel, and the American mink.