Eurasian Otter


Lutra lutra

Common Names:

Eurasian Otter, European Otter


Eurasian Otter

Kingdom :   Animalia
Phylum :   Chordata
Class :    Mammalia
Order :   Carnivora
Family :   Mustelidae
Genus :    Lutra
Species :   lutra

Conservation status:

IUCN :   Near threatened
IWPA :   Schedule II
CITES :   Appendix I
U.S ESA :   Endangered


The Eurasian otter has one of the widest distributions of all palaearctic mammals. Its range covers parts of three continents: Europe, Asia and Africa. In India, it occurs in northern, northeast and southern India. Formerly widely distributed in Japan, it is now believed to be extinct there.

Distribution map of Eurasian Otter

Distribution map of Eurasian Otter (Source: )

Characteristics, Habitat and Behaviour:

The Eurasian otter has sleek brown fur, which is often paler on the underside and a long lithe body with a thick tail and short legs. Adaptations for an aquatic lifestyle include webbed feet, the ability to close the small ears and the nose when under water, and very dense, short fur that traps a layer of air to insulate the animal. Many sensitive hair ('vibrissae') frame the snout; these help the otter to locate prey. Vocalizations include a high-pitched whistle between a mother and her cubs, twittering noises produced during play-fighting and cat-like noises when fighting.

The Eurasian otter lives in a wide variety of aquatic habitats, including highland and lowland lakes, rivers, streams, marshes, swamp forests and coastal areas independent of their size, origin or latitude (Mason and Macdonald, 1986). In the Indian sub-continent, Eurasian otters occur in cold hill and mountain streams. During summer (April - June) in the Himalayas, they may ascend up to 3,660 m.

Major Threats:

  • Habitat destruction due to developmental activities such as canalization of rivers, removal of bank side vegetation, dam construction, draining of wetlands and aquaculture activities.
  • Decrease in prey species due to acidification of rivers and lakes.
  • Poaching for pelt.
  • Coastal populations are vulnerable to oil spills, while the inland populations are vulnerable to organic pollution by nitrate fertilizers, untreated sewage, or farm slurry.
  • A potential risk comes from traps designed to kill other species, especially underwater cages constructed to drown muskrats.


Mason, C.F., & Macdonald, S.M. (1987). The use of spraints for surveying otter Lutra lutra populations: an evaluation. Biological conservation, 41(3), 167-177.