Lutra lutra | European Otter | Madra uisce
|Overall Assessment of Conservation Status||Favourable|
|Overall Trend in Conservation Status||N/A|
IUCN Conservation Status
|Ireland (1)||Near Threatened|
|Europe (2)||Near Threatened|
|Global (3)||Near Threatened|
Protected by the following legal instruments:
- Habitats Directive (92/43/EEC), Annex II, Annex IV
- Convention on the Conservation of European Wildlife and Natural Habitats (Bern Convention) Appendix II
- Convention on Trade in Endangered Species of Wild Fauna and Flora (CITES) Appendix I
- Wildlife Act (1976)
- Wildlife (Amendment) Act (2000)
- Wildlife (N.I.) Order of 1985.
- The native Otter (Lutra lutra) is a slender, 'small-dog' sized mammal with long tail.
- Head and body together measure to 72 cms, the tail to 42 cms. Females are approximately 10% smaller than males.
- Fur mid- to dark brown above, paler below, those paler areas extending to below ears, often giving appearance of 'moustaches'.
- Presence of the animal is often indicated by the presence of spraint (essentially faeces) which is usually dark in colour.
- Can vary from a smear or blob to a longer dropping. Smells pleasant when fresh. Fish remains often obvious in the spraint which looks ashy when dry. Usually left in prominent places in the individual otter's range.
- Non-native American Mink (Mustela vison) which can occur in similar habitats, is much smaller - head and body to 40cm, tail to 19cms. Spraint is not sweet smelling.
Source: Harris S.,Yalden D.W. 2008
Habitats include but are not necessarily limited to;
- Lakes and Ponds (FL)
- Watercourses (FW)
- Riparian woodland (WN5)
- Estuaries (MW4)
- Sea inlets and bays (MW2)
- Salt marshes (CM)
- Swamps (FS)
Otters in coastal areas include freshwater sources in their territories.
An extensive list of Annex I habitat types with which Otters may be associated is listed in the National Otter Survey Report 2010 / 2012 (Irish Wildlife Manual No. 76), Reid et al (2013), which is available via the NPWS website.
Sources: Harris S.,Yalden D.W., 2008; Reid et al, 2013; Fossitt, J.A., 2001.
In Ireland breeding can occur in any season.
Gestation is about 63 days.
Cubs born in a single litter annually, 2-3 per litter.
Cubs are independent at c. 12 months.
Males sexually mature c. 16 months.
Females sexually mature c. 10 months.
Source: Harris S.,Yalden D.W. 2008
|THREAT||ARTICLE 17 THREAT CODE||RANKING|
|Professional passive fishing||F02.01||Low|
|Pollution to surface waters (limnic & terrestrial, marine & brackish)||H01||Low|
These threats include threats also identified in the 2009 Irish Red List of Terrestrial Mammals in which the following additional threats were identified ;
- Removal of riparian habitats reduce suitability for otters.
- Decline in eel numbers.
Source: Marnell, F. et al 2009
These threats include threats also identified in the IUCN Red List at European (2007) and Global levels however a number of other threats present in Ireland are also identified:
- Canalisation of rivers
- Draining of wetlands
- Traps set for invasive species
- Dam construction
Sources: Jim Conroy et al 2007; Ruiz-Olmo, J.et al 2008.
In the Article 17 Habitats Directive reporting for the period
2007-2012 Conservation Measures implemented or being implemented during the period are outlilned below:
|CONSERVATION MEASURE||ARTICLE 17 CONSERVATION CODE|
|Legal Protection of Habitats and Species||6.3|
|Other forestry related measures||3.0|
|Restoring / improving water quality||4.1|
|Regulation / management of hunting and taking||7.1|
|Urban and industrial waste management||8.1|
|Speific management of traffic and energy transport systems||8.2|
Source: NPWS 2013.
A more detailed outline of precise actions may be found in the 2009 - 2011 Otter Threat Response Plan, NPWS (2009).
The 2009 Irish Red List of Terrestrial Mammals does not suggest any Conservation Actions for the species.
Source: Marnell, F. et al 2009
The European level IUCN Red List suggests the following;
- Road barriers and tunnels under roads are required to reduce the impact of road kills.
- More monitoring is required.
- Better survey techniques are required.
Source: Jim Conroy et al 2007.
Much of Europe, large parts of Asia, north west Africa.
Accuracy of world distribution shown in the Global Biodiversity Information Facility (GBIF) map below will be constrained by, amongst other factors, data held but not shared by countries and organizations not participating in the GBIF.
Widespread in Ireland.
Records submitted to Data Centre in 2023
The following map is interactive. If you would prefer to view it full screen then click here.
How can you help
The National Biodiversity Data Centre is trying to improve our knowledge on the distribution of the European Otter in Ireland. Should you observe otters, please submit sighting to add to the database. Detailed observations will assist us gaining a better insight into where the species are most abundant in Ireland and we might also be able to detect regional variations. Please submit any sightings and photographs at;
All records submitted on line can be viewed on Google Maps – once checked and validated these will be added to the Mammals of Ireland Database and made available for conservation and research.
For further information contact Dr. Liam Lysaght email@example.com
Conroy J., Kranz A., Cavallini P., Fernandes M., Tikhonov A., Herrero J., Stubbe M., Maran T., 2007. Lutra lutra. The IUCN Red List of Threatened Species. Version 2014.2. <www.iucnredlist.org>. Downloaded on 07 October 2014.
Fossitt, J.A. (2001) A Guide to Habitats in Ireland. The Heritage Council.
Harris S., Yalden D.W. (2008). Mammals of the British Isles :Handbook, 4th Edition. The Mammal Society.
Marnell, F., Kingston, N. & Looney, D. (2009) Ireland Red List No. 3: Terrestrial Mammals, National Parks and Wildlife Service, Department of the Environment, Heritage and Local Government, Dublin, Ireland.
NPWS (2009)Threat Response Plan: Otter (2009-2011). National Parks & Wildlife Service, Department of the Environment, Heritage & Local Government, Dublin.NPWS (2013) The Status of EU Protected Habitats and Species in Ireland. Species Assessments Volume 3. Version 1.0. Unpublished Report, National Parks & Wildlife Services. Department of Arts, Heritage and the Gaeltacht, Dublin, Ireland.
Reid, N., Hayden, B., Lundy, M.G.,Pietravalle, S., McDonald, R.A. & Montgomery, W.I. (2013) National Otter Survey of Ireland 2010/12. Irish Wildlife Manuals No. 76. National Parks and Wildlife Service, Department of Arts, Heritage and the Gaeltacht, Dublin, Ireland.
Ruiz-Olmo, J., Loy, A., Cianfrani, C., Yoxon, P., Yoxon, G., de Silva, P.K., Roos, A., Bisther, M., Hajkova, P. & Zemanova, B. 2008. Lutra lutra. The IUCN Red List of Threatened Species. Version 2014.2. <www.iucnredlist.org>. Downloaded on 07 October 2014.