Lutra lutra 

Scope: Europe
Language: English

Translate page into:

Taxonomy [top]

Kingdom Phylum Class Order Family
Animalia Chordata Mammalia Carnivora Mustelidae

Scientific Name: Lutra lutra
Species Authority: (Linnaeus, 1758)
Regional Assessments:
Common Name(s):
English Eurasian Otter, European Otter, European River Otter, Old World Otter, Common Otter
French Loutre commune, Loutre de rivière, Loutre d'Europe
Spanish Nutria, Nutria Común
Lutra nippon Imaizumi & Yoshiyuki, 1989
Viverra lutra Linnaeus, 1758
Taxonomic Notes: Some authors considered Japanese otters as a distinct species (Lutra nippon) (see Wilson and Reeder 2005 and references therein), however they are maintained here as a distinct population of Lutra lutra.

Assessment Information [top]

Red List Category & Criteria: Near Threatened (Regional assessment) ver 3.1
Year Published: 2007
Date Assessed: 2006-05-21
Assessor(s): Jim Conroy, Andreas Kranz, Paulo Cavallini, Margarida Fernandes, Alexei Tikhonov, Juan Herrero, Michael Stubbe, Tiit Maran
Reviewer(s): Craig Hilton-Taylor and Helen Temple
European regional assessment: Near Threatened (NT)
EU 25 regional assessment: Near Threatened (NT)

In both cases, the species is listed as Near Threatened because it has undergone historical declines but is now recovering across most of Europe (although declines are ongoing in some areas). However, if conservation actions for the species were stopped or reduced, the species would very quickly move back into a threatened category. Hence the Near Threatened listing is a precautionary one based on Criterion A3 and A4, as it is suspected that if conservation measures ceased, declines over a 12 year (=3 generation) period in the future, or including both the past and the future, might approach 30%.

Geographic Range [top]

Range Description:The Eurasian otter has the widest distribution of all otter species. Its range covers parts of three continents: Europe, Asia and Africa. Originally the species was widespread throughout Europe, but it declined dramatically in the 1960s and 1970s, and has disappeared from parts of central and northern Europe (it is probably extinct in Liechtenstein, the Netherlands, and Switzerland: Prigioni 1999). It is not found on most of the Mediterranean islands due to the lack of appropriate habitat, although it is found on Corfu (Greece). Little is known about the original distribution in Africa and Asia. Otters have been found in brackish waters below sea level in the Netherlands, and up to 2,400 m in the Pyrenees. Outside Europe they have been recorded up to 4,120 m in Tibet (Reuther and Hilton-Taylor 2004).
Countries occurrence:
Albania; Austria; Belarus; Belgium; Bosnia and Herzegovina; Bulgaria; Croatia; Czech Republic; Estonia; Finland; France; Germany; Gibraltar; Greece; Hungary; Ireland; Italy; Kazakhstan; Latvia; Lithuania; Luxembourg; Macedonia, the former Yugoslav Republic of; Moldova; Montenegro; Norway; Poland; Portugal; Romania; Russian Federation; San Marino; Serbia (Serbia); Slovakia; Slovenia; Spain; Sweden; Turkey; Ukraine; United Kingdom
Regionally extinct:
Liechtenstein; Netherlands; Switzerland
Additional data:
Upper elevation limit (metres):4120
Range Map:Click here to open the map viewer and explore range.

Population [top]

Population:Expanding throughout most of its European range following historic declines up until the 1960s, 1970s and 1980s; although in the European part of Russia there have been recent marked declines, and isolated populations in countries like Turkey, Italy, Georgia, Armenia are still declining. The UK population started to recover in the 1960s (Battersby 2005). The population in Portugal is stable and did not show much decrease historically (Cabral et al. 2005). In Norway, although the range is increasing on the south-western coast, the population appears to have declined again since the mid 1990s (T. Heggberget pers. comm. 2006).
Current Population Trend:Unknown
Additional data:
Population severely fragmented:No

Habitat and Ecology [top]

Habitat and Ecology:It is known from a wide variety of aquatic habitats, including highland and lowland lakes, rivers, streams, marshes, swamp forests and coastal areas. It is very adaptable, using saltwater as well as freshwater habitats, and even sewerage systems in urban areas. In most parts of its range otter distribution is correlated with presence of riverbank vegetation. Otters in different regions may depend upon different features of the habitat, but the important component of otter habitat, for breeding purposes, is the presence of holes in the river bank, including cavities among tree roots, piles of rock, wood or debris. The Eurasian otter avoids deep water. Their distribution in coastal areas is strongly correlated with the presence of freshwater. The location of breeding holts is not confined to river banks; there is evidence to indicate that sometimes the species breeds well away from water and the pups are moved to holts on the river banks once they are a few months old (Reuther and Hilton-Taylor 2004).
Generation Length (years):3-4

Threats [top]

Major Threat(s): The aquatic habitats of otters are extremely vulnerable to man-made changes. Canalisation of rivers, removal of bank side vegetation, dam construction, abstraction of water for irrigation, draining of wetlands, agricultural activities and associated man-made impacts on aquatic systems are all unfavourable to otter populations. Pollution is major threat to the otters in western and central Europe, the main pollutants posing a danger to otters are the organochlorines dieldrin (HEOD) and DDT/DDE, polychlorinated biphenyls (PCBs) and the heavy metal mercury. Coastal populations are particularly vulnerable to oil spills. Acidification of rivers and lakes results in the decline of fish biomass and reduces the food resources of the otters. The same effects are known to result from organic pollution by nitrate fertilisers, untreated sewage, or farm slurry. In addition, major causes of mortality from several countries are drowning, road kills, and poaching. Fyke nets set for eels and other fish as well as creels set for marine crustaceans are very attractive to otters, and many that try to enter these traps are entangled and drowned. A further potential threat is strangulation by transparent, monofilament drift net. A potential risk comes from traps designed to kill other species, especially underwater cages constructed to drown muskrats. Illegal hunting is still a problem in many parts of their distribution range. In several European countries political pressure especially by fishermen has resulted in granting of licenses for killing otters (Reuther and Hilton-Taylor 2004). Illegal killing for the trade of pelts is on the increase in Ukraine and Danube Delta, and probably in the eastern parts of its global range (European Mammal Assessment Workshop 2006).

Conservation Actions [top]

Conservation Actions: It is strictly protected under international legislation and conventions: CITES Appendix I (Reservation by Russian Federation), Bern Convention Appendix II, EU Habitats and Species Directive Annexes II and IV, and EC 338/97 Annex A. Additionally it is protected under national law in many range states. A European Breeding Programme (EEP) for self-sustaining captive populations was started in 1985. Monitoring programmes have been established in many range states in Europe. Road barriers and tunnels under roads are required to reduce the impact of road kills (especially in countries like Germany where road kills are the main threat). Much more monitoring is required, but also better survey techniques are required. For example, the population on the Shetlands is well-surveyed, and survey results show no indications of decline, but evidence from other sources (breeding holts, changes in diet, etc.) indicate that declines are in fact happening (J. Conroy pers. comm. 2006).

Citation: Jim Conroy, Andreas Kranz, Paulo Cavallini, Margarida Fernandes, Alexei Tikhonov, Juan Herrero, Michael Stubbe, Tiit Maran. 2007. Lutra lutra. The IUCN Red List of Threatened Species 2007: e.T12419A3343999. . Downloaded on 30 March 2017.
Disclaimer: To make use of this information, please check the <Terms of Use>.
Feedback: If you see any errors or have any questions or suggestions on what is shown on this page, please provide us with feedback so that we can correct or extend the information provided