Today marks World Otter Day, a chance for Zoos, Aquariums, various organisations and you and I to not only enjoy this amazing animal, but also to raise awareness on a global scale to ensure we have them around for in the wild and at sanctuaries for years to come.
This year is a standout year in terms of otter appreciation as the IOSF (International Otter Survival Fund) has declared that 2016 is officially the Year of the Otter as they want as many people as possible to be involved. At this moment in time, of the 13 species found worldwide, 12 are declining in number and the IOSF is now at the forefront of otter conservation, particularly in Africa and Asia, as well as here in the UK too.
With this in mind we thought we would help people get involved by offering some fun facts for children on otters from around the world, and a fact file focussing on the UK species of otter.
Did you know…
- The otter is a meat-eating mammal
- It is part of the weasel family called Lutra lutra.
- There are as many as 13 species of otter found globally.
- There are some species of otter that live solely in the water, but there are also some other types of otters that live between land and water.
- An otter’s den is called a ‘couch’ or a ‘holt’.
- If you see a group of otters, they are referred to as a ‘lodge’, ‘bevy’, ‘family’, or ‘romp’. When they are together in water the group is called a ‘raft’.
- In the wild, otters can live up to 16 years of age.
- Otters are known to be very active hunters. They like to spend a lot of time chasing prey through water or searching the rivers and the sea bed for food. Fish and frogs are the main dish for the otter, but crabs can also be eaten. Some species like to carry a ‘special’ rock that they use to help smash open shellfish!
- Otters, depending on the species, vary in size. The smallest, the Oriental small-clawed otter, comes in at around 2 ft. and 1 kg right through to the large Giant otters and Sea otters who grow to 5.9 ft. and weigh 45 kg!
- The majority of marine mammals have a layer of insulating blubber, but not the otter. They benefit from air that becomes trapped in their fur which then keeps them warm.
- Otters love playtime! Just like you and I, they are often thought to get involved in some activities just for their enjoyment. It’s been known for them to make waterslides so they can slide down into the water!
- Otters are a popular animal in Japanese folklore, and are referred to as “kawauso”.
Everything you need to know about the UK otter
During the early 1960s otters were on the verge of extinction in the UK as a result of river pollution, habitat loss and hunting. But now, thanks largely to full legal protection, cleaner rivers and a wonderfully managed habitat, the otter is beginning to once again flourish, slowly but surely in Britain.
Male otters are called dogs, with the female known as a bitch. They possess a set of large lungs that allow for them to remain under the water for up to 4 minutes, and will often swim distances of as far as 400 metres before resurfacing. They’re not slow at swimming either, with speeds of 8 mph under water, as well as being able to outrun us humans when they’re on land too!
How big are the UK otters?
A fully grown otter can grow between 100cm and 165cm, when measured from head to tail.
What do they look like?
Otters in the UK possess brown fur, quite often presenting a pale underside, a long trim and streamlined body, along with small ears, a long thick tail and webbed feet which, when combined, make the otter a mean swimming, playing, hunting machine!
Its eyes and nostrils are positioned high on its head, and this is so that it can see and breathe while the rest of its body is immersed in the water. Their big whiskers, or ‘vibrissae’, can be used to help find food when they are hunting in dark water.
Where can I find an otter?
In the wild, otters are found on coasts and estuaries, along with fresh water habitats with suitable cover.
Where do otters live/nest?
The ‘couches’ or ‘holts’ are lined with grass, and are typically found in stream banks and have an underwater entrance.
How many otters live in the UK?
Pre-breeding season estimations claim that there are approximately 12,900 otters, with that number gradually increasing.
If you want to spot some otters in the wild, why not stay in one of our glamping UK abodes that are located near their natural habitats? It’s important to remember to give them plenty of space when you do come across these majestic mammals though.