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Eurasian otter (Lutra lutra)

The Eurasian Otter (Lutra lutra) is the only species found in Europe and its population became very depleted. In some western countries it became extinct. Populations have started to recover but it is slower than is suggested by the media, and we cannot afford to be complacent.

For more information click below:

IOSF European Conferences

2000 - Otter Toxicology Conference

2003 - The Return of the Otter in Europe - Where and How?


Species: Eurasian Otter

Widespread in most of the country with healthy populations in the northwest and south.

Legal protection: None - legally hunted for fur

Threats: habitat destruction, water pollution, hunting and persecution by fishermen.


Species: Eurasian Otter



Species: Eurasian Otter

Present in Arpi Lake National Park in the northwest and also around Lake Seval (central)

Legal Protection:

Threats: Hunting, conflict with fish farms.


Species: Eurasian Otter

Population seems to be expanding.

Legal protection: Fully protected since 1947

Threats: In early 2017 it was proposed that 40 otters should be culled in Lower Austria, in spite of the legal protection. The purpose was to appease fishermen who claim that otters are responsible for decreases in fish stocks. The matter was referred to the European parliament but the cull did go ahead in 2018 in spite of all the opposition. Permission was granted to kill 40 otters even though it was declared illegal by the justice court in Lower Austria. In the end 20 otters were killed and then it was suspended. However, permission was also given to kill 43 otters in Carinthia and 23 were hunted with a further 16 being killed in accidents. Fishermen in other parts of Austria have also called for “otter management” i.e. a cull.

IOSF supported projects

  • 2017 – Worked with various other NGOs to prevent an otter cull.


Species: Eurasian Otter

Widespread throughout the country with decreases in population to the south-west of the country. Declined from 1984 to 1991 due to poaching.

Winter surveys in 2008 and 2009 by Dr Vadim Sidorovich, Belarus Acadamy of Science in Minsk, found a serious decline in otter numbers as well as populations of other mustelids – polecat, stoat, badger and even American mink. The problem seems to be some form of illness which is affecting mainly otters using streams or small rivers. Here animals come into contact with each other more often and so otters using bigger rivers seem to have a greater chance of survival.

In autumn 2010 numbers were starting to stabilise although still quite low with just 1-2 per 20km compared to the normal figure of about 10 per 20km for the Naliboki area. The cause of the illness is still not known.  

Legal protection: Trapped with special licences.

Threats: illegal killing and habitat destruction.

IOSF supported projects

  • 2000-2005 – Support for Vadim Sidorovich in his study of Eurasian Otters in north-east Belarus


Species: Eurasian Otter

The otter was once common but in 1980s it was regarded as extinct. Since then there have been a few sightings in the south. In June 2006 sightings were reported on the River Semois and in 2012 it was announced that for the second time camera traps had picked up an otter near Antwerp and further east near the Dutch border close to Weert. It appears that they are breeding once more. Otters have possibly moved in from The Netherlands and Germany but they are still believed to be extinct along the Luxembourg border.

Threats: Rivers are heavily polluted and unsuitable for otters.

Bosnia and Herzegovina

Species: Eurasian Otter

Present but now endangered.

Legal protection: Not known but listed as Endangered in Crvena lista faune federacije Bosne I Herzegovine (Bosnian Red List)

Threats: Habitat destruction, water pollution, harassment and poaching


Species: Eurasian Otter

Widely distributed in plains but scarce in the high mountains and steppe regions in the northeast. The population appears to be relatively stable.

Legal protection: Fully protected

Threats: Habitat destruction and pollution. Poaching is the most common cause of death and then road kill and drowning.

IOSF supported projects

  • 2012 - Support for Dilian Georgiev and the Green Balkans Wildlife Rehabilitation Centre in the care of a Eurasian Otter cub


Species: Eurasian Otter

Old hunting reports show that otters used to be present throughout the country except the islands although at the end of the 19th century they were present on the biggest island, Krk. Common in northern part of the country but lower density along the Mediterranean and some local coastal populations have either become extinct (e.g. populations from Istria region, Krk Island, Cetina River and Vrljika River) or they are now on the edge of survival (e.g. Kuti Lake in the Neretva Basin).

According to the Red Data Book of the Republic of Croatia published by the State Institute for Nature Protection the Eurasian otter is still classified as Data Deficient (DD) due to the lack of sufficient data as no systematic monitoring for their presence has yet been carried.

Legal protection: Fully protected since 1972

Threats: Habitat destruction (canalisation of rivers, removal of bank side vegetation, dam construction, draining of wetlands and associated man-made impacts); water pollution (chemicals, heavy metals, untreated sewage, farm slurry); drowning in fish nets; road kills; poaching.

Czech Republic

Species: Eurasian Otter

There used to be three isolated populations one in the north bordering Germany, one in the east bordering Slovakia and the third, the densest population, in the central part of the country around the fishponds. They have increased over the last decade and are now widespread, although there may be some localised decline.

Legal protection: Fully protected

Threats: Habitat degradation, pollution with fertilisers and pesticides, increased pressure from anglers/fishing community, road kills and illegal killing - every year there are records of poisoning, shooting, leg hold trapping.


Species: Eurasian Otter

Sporadic population and classed as endangered in the country. A national survey took place in April 2004, and no signs of otter were found in Zealand. In 2006 it was reported that surveys had shown a marked increase in the last 10 years but this is uncertain.

Legal protection: Fully protected

Threats: Fyke nets and road traffic


Species: Eurasian Otter

Widespread across the country and known to exist on larger islands.

Legal protection: Protected

Threats: Destruction of waterways, water pollution.


Species: Eurasian Otter

Present throughout, including Aland Islands and southwest Archipelago.

Legal protection: Fully protected under a hunting law which may only be temporary

Threats: Fish traps, road mortality and some are shot by people mistaking them for beavers, which are legally hunted. From IOSF research in 2019, it appears that 10–15 otters per year are killed legally at fish farms.

IOSF supported projects

  • 2016 – Support for Sara Randström in her care of a Eurasian Otter cub
  • 2019 – Support for the animal sanctuary Pääkaupunkiseudun Eläinsuojeluyhdistys RY in their care of two Eurasian Otter cubs


Species: Eurasian Otter

Mainly widespread in west and south with some coastal populations. Reintroduced to Alsace.

Legal protection: Fully protected since 1976

Threats: Destruction of habitat, water pollution and road deaths. From IOSF research in 2019, it appears that there is also an element of legal trapping, although this does not appear to be quantified

IOSF supported projects

  • 2008, 2014 – Support for Oceanopolis in their care of Eurasian Otter cubs
  • 2017 – Support for Manon, Centre de Sauvegarde, in the care of a Eurasian Otter cub
  • 2020 – Support for Marie-Pierre Puech, Hopital Faune Sauvage, in the care of a Eurasian Otter cub


Species: Eurasian Otter

Status of the Otter (Lutra lutra) in Southeast Georgia by Gorgadze in 2005 gave the results of surveys in three parts of the country. During the field work a photo of a leopard was captured on a camera trap – the first time this species had been seen in the country for 50 years. Click here to read the full report.

A survey by NACRES in 2012 covered 631 sites and otters were present at 245 (39%). Otters are listed as “nearly extinct” in the Georgian Red Book but this is based on very old data. Not abundant but appears stable.

Legal Protection: Protected under the Berne Convention on the Conservation of European Wildlife and Natural Habitats.

Threats: Habitat destruction for logging and agriculture, pollution, poachers, killing because of otter/fishermen conflicts.

IOSF supported projects

  • 2004 – Support for research by Giorgi Gorgadze to investigate Eurasian Otter populations.


Species: Eurasian Otter

The otter was very endangered in the old Federal Republic, and rare or extinct in other states. It is now stronger in the east and spreading west. Few provinces have no known populations. However, there is now mention of a cull as in Austria.

Legal protection: Fully protected

Threats: Fish traps, road mortality, canalisation of rivers and pollution, cull?

IOSF supported projects

  • 2010 to present – Support for Geranda Olsthoorn and KeesVegelin in their care for Eurasian Otter cubs in their centre at Quilow.


Presence first confirmed in January 2019 but the population is unknown


Species: Eurasian Otter

Widespread throughout the country with the densest population in the northeast but populations are becoming fragmented. The otter for the first time was found on the south coast of Crete in 2003. (Smet, K D and Lymberakis, 2003).

Legal protection: Fully protected

Threats: Habitat destruction, intensive fish farming, pollution and hunting, fish traps, road mortality, canalisation of rivers and pollution.

IOSF supported projects

  • 2016 – Support for Penelope Karagianni and Action for Wildlife in the care of a Eurasian Otter cub


See Netherlands


Species: Eurasian Otter

Widespread, covering approximately 77.5% of country. Less in the mountains in the northeast and dry plain areas (central). Population considered stable or possibly increasing, although there are regional fluctuations and differences.

Legal protection: Protected since 1978.

Threats: Pesticides and fertilizer pollution, killing at fish farms.

IOSF supported projects

  • 2000 – Support for Pal Gera following a spill of cyanide effecting the rivers Szamos and Tisza
  • 2008 – Presented at the Mustelid Colloquium in Budapest and visited Petasmalom otter centre
  • 2013 – Support for Eurasian Otters in care at Petesmalom and volunteer programme for centre development


Species: Eurasian Otter

Widespread in the country.

Legal protection: Fully protected but illegal hunting with dogs still goes on

Threats: Fish traps, road mortality, hunting, canalisation of rivers and pollution.

IOSF supported projects

  • 2000 – Campaigned with Irish MPs and the Irish Council Against Bloodsports to stop illegal otter hunting in Cork and Limerick which was still continuing despite no licences since 1990
  • 2006 – Advised ISPCA on new otter facilities
  • 2008 – Otter survey and education visit to Keenagh Primary School in Longford
  • 2008 – Worked with Bernie Murphy on otter release in County Longford
  • 2010 – Spoke at rehab conference organised by Irish Wildlife Matters


Species: Eurasian Otter

The otter is one of the most endangered animals in Italy. Populations were restricted to the south of the country but in the last two decades they have recovered in the central area. They are present in the north following a reintroduction to the River Ticino in 1997. They have also expanded naturally from Austria in to South Tyrol and the Friuli Venezia Giulia.

Legal protection: Fully protected

Threats: Habitat destruction and organochlorine pollution.

IOSF supported projects

  • 2007 – Support for local people in Serre Persano to prevent re-opening of huge rubbish dump near the protected area of Oasi di Persano


Species: Eurasian Otter

The otter is found on most water courses but sporadically distributed. Dense populations are found in the western and eastern parts of the country.

There have been reports of a decline in otters in 2008 and 2009 as in Belarus – see Belarus for more information. 

Legal protection: Not known

Threats: Rapid development of agriculture, persecution by crayfish and fish farmers, habitat destruction, organochlorine pollution, and being caught in beaver traps.




Species: Eurasian Otter

Widespread throughout the country.

Legal protection: Fully protected since 1975

Threats: Habitat destruction, loss of food supply due to water pollution, caught in beaver traps, road kills and poaching.

IOSF supported projects

  • 1995 – Support for Dr Baranauskas and Dr Mickevicius in their study of Eurasian Otters in protected areas and fish farms


Widespread until the end of the 19th century but trapping and pollution caused their extinction. In 1990s they had returned to a few sites but were still very rare and the population was very fragmented. In 1994 a project was started to improve otter habitat and it was found that only 40% of rivers are suitable for otters and the population is declining.


Species: Eurasian Otter

Widespread and numerous along the Albanian border. For 2007 Click here

Legal protection: Not known.

Threats: Not known.


Species: Eurasian Otter

Animals found in most areas except the central part of the country and west central Montenegro.

Legal protection: Protected as a natural rarity but this law is outdated.

Threats: Eel traps, fishing nets, conflicts with fishermen, road kills, construction of small hydro power plants, urbanisation of habitat, tourism, litter. Some hunters prepare them as a trophy.

IOSF supported projects

  • 2018 – World Otter Day grant to Ninoslav Đurović for raising awareness through a television broadcast to show camera trapping and identifying otter signs
  • 2018 to present – Support for Ninoslav Đurović for further education work with fishermen and children and formation of Team Otter Club


Species: Eurasian Otter

The otter was officially declared extinct in 1988 and in 2002 a re-introduction programme began with animals brought in from Lithuania, Belarus and other eastern European countries.

Otters were reintroduced in the north of the country but they spread into the central belt. At the end of 2004 spraints were found in the Weerribben area, where two otters were radio-tracked before the transmitters broke down. Otter signs were also found in the Weerribben area and since then there has been evidence of some breeding.

However the reintroduction programme was controversial as many animals have been killed on the roads. In 2014 31 animals died and so the Ministry agreed to bring in measures to reduce road deaths. In September 2015 it was announced that the last of 12 otters released in Gelderland in 2002 had been run over by a car.

In 2014 an “Otter Challenge” was set up with NGOs and companies to reach a milestone of 1,000 otters in The Netherlands by 2020. Unfortunately that target was not reached – in fact the number quoted at the end of December 2020 was only 450 and this was largely because of deaths on the roads and in fyke nets.

And yet, in November 2020 the Dutch Mammal Association amended the country Red List and removed the otter from the list of endangered species! This is clearly worrying as the otters are far from safe in the Netherlands and yet this suggests they are.

Threats: Roads, pollution, disturbance

IOSF supported projects

  • 2007 – Invited to workshop as part of consultancy for proposed reintroduction programme

North Macedonia

Species: Eurasian Otter

Present in most of the country, but in the south and southeast there are few or no otters.

Legal Protection: Not known

Threats: Not known


Species: Eurasian Otter

Across the entire country but with a higher density on the coast. Numbers are lower south of Bergen to Oslo, and inland.

Legal protection: Protected but licences can be issued to kill otters at fish farms.

Threats: Pollution. Many drown in fishing nets but exact numbers are unknown. Conflicts because of otter predation on birds, wild salmon/sea trout and aquaculture.

IOSF supported projects

  • 1998 – Campaigned to prevent the use of Rotenone to kill a salmon parasite *Gyrodactylus salaris” in Norway’s rivers. This chemical would kill all life in the river catchment and its use is no longer recommended.


Species: Eurasian Otter

Widespread in most of the country and especially common in the lakelands in the north, along the western and eastern borders, and in the Karpaty/Carpathian Mountains in the southeast.

Legal protection: Protected since 1974.

Threats: Pollution, drowning in fish traps and poaching.

IOSF funded projects

2000 - Helped with advice and otter milk for a baby otter in Poland


Species: Eurasian Otter

Widespread and thriving throughout the country in all aquatic habitats.

Legal protection: Protected but licences can be issued to kill otters at fish farms

Threats: Damming of rivers, drought, illegal killing and coastal oil spills

IOSF funded projects

2002 - Helped with advice on bringing up two baby otters in Portugal.


Species: Eurasian Otter

Wide distribution from Black Sea level at 0 m altitude, to subalpine zone, (1,800–2,000 m altitude). Recent increase after worrying fall in last decades of 20th century.

Legal protection: Protected by Habitats Directive, Bern Convention and also Romanian legislation.

Threats: Habitat loss, pollution, road kills, conflict with fish farms, illegal trade for pets and skins. Until 2007 otter trapping was allowed and some poaching still continues.


Species: Eurasian and Sea Otter

The Eurasian Otter occurs throughout the country with the exception of the Tundra areas. A decrease in density occurs from the west to the east. Sea Otters occur in the Asian part of Russia on the Kamchatka peninsula and the Kutlin and Cammander Islands.


YUZHNO-SAKHALINSK, August 24 (RIA Novosti's Pyotr Tsyrendorzhiyev) - The Tundrovy state nature biological reserve was created in northern Sakhalin (an island in the Russian Far East).

An appropriate resolution was signed by the Sakhalin Region Governor Ilya Malakhov, a spokesman for the regional administration's press service told RIA Novosti on Tuesday.

The nature reserve in the Okhinsk district covers nearly 190,000 hectares of the taiga areas in the Vagis mountains. The reserve was created for an unlimited period of time.

From now on, the rare and disappearing species of flora and fauna on northern Sakhalin will be protected in Tundrovy. It has been planned to preserve the natural habitat of the population of wild reindeer. The Sakhalin taiga is rich in precious sables, Eurasian otters and brown bears, which will be now protected in the Tundrovy preserve.

Any economic activity, sport and amateur hunting and fishing, and the acquisition of land are prohibited in the reserve. Apart from that, bans have been introduced for motor vehicles in the reserve and helicopters cannot fly above the taiga at a height lower than 200 meters.

Russian information agency September 2004

Legal protection: Not known

Threats: Pollution, habitat destruction, poaching, reduced prey, road kills, killed by stray dogs.

IOSF supported projects

  • 1995-1996 – Support for Vladimir Katchanovsky in a study of Eurasian Otters in the Central Forest Biosphere Reserve
  • 2001-2003 – Support for Sea Otter research on the Commander Islands Research, Education.
  • 2020 – Took part in World Otter Day webinar

San Marino

Species: Eurasian Otter

Present but no data

Legal protection: Not known

Threats: Not known


Species: Eurasian Otter

Present in the river Gradac's gorge in Serbia.

Legal protection: Protected as a natural rarity but this law is outdated.

Threats: Not known.


Species: Eurasian Otter

Most parts of the country except parts of the western and southeastern lowlands.

Legal protection: Not known

Threats: Road kills, habitat destruction/fragmentation, pollution, poaching.


Species: Eurasian Otter

The otter occurs throughout the country but is common in the north east. Detailed information on the distribution of the otter is scarce.

Legal protection: Not known

Threats: Road mortality and habitat loss.


Species: Eurasian Otter

Widely distributed in the west but threatened in the central and eastern regions.

Legal protection: Protected

Threats: Habitat destruction, tourist developments, drainage of wetlands and illegal hunting and pollution

IOSF supported projects

  • 2005 – Collaborated with Jordi Ruiz-Olmo of the Catalonia Reintroduction Otter Project


Species: Eurasian Otter

Declining population from 1950 to 1980 but re-introduction programmes in central Sweden have shown that the population is increasing.

Legal protection: Protected since 1968

Threats: Habitat destruction and pollution


Unfortunately they became extinct in Switzerland in the 1980s because of pollution by PCBs, and a reintroduction programme failed as levels of PCB were still too high. However, there are signs that they may be starting to come back naturally. In 2005 a pair of otters escaped from Dählhölzli Zoo in Bern when the Aare river flooded. They seem to have survived until 2008 and had young. In 2009 an otter was seen in a video taken at a fish bypass at Reichenau and tracks were found in Valais in 2011 and 2012. In 2014 there was a report of one in Canton Geneva and in spring 2015 a female with two cubs was photographed with a camera trap between Bern and Thun – maybe these are descendants of the Dählhölzli pair. Hopefully this is the start of a real return of the otter to Switzerland, which also means that the water quality has improved for all of us.

Find out more here (in German)


Species: Eurasian Otter

Otter numbers declined in early 1960's. Today otters are found throughout Turkey, living in a variety of aquatic environments. (Erogl et al 2009). Because of the fish pond farming in the north of the country the otter has made a comeback. A database is being set up on otters in Turkey and more information can be found below.

Legal protection: Protected

Threats: Habitat destruction, pollution and recently exploitation from fishermen in the north.

IOSF supported projects

  • 1994 – Support for a public awareness leaflet on otter conservation in southern Turkey
  • 1996-1998 – Support for Nuray Guven’s survey work in the Sultan Marshes and follow up education and public awareness work


Species: Eurasian Otter

The disaster at the Chornobyl nuclear power plant on 26 April 1986 is usually categorised as the greatest technological catastrophe in human history which resulted in extremely high radioactive contamination of vast territories. The Chornobyl exclusion zone is a 2600 km2 territory in Kyiv region, Northern Ukraine, where since the nuclear disaster human impact on natural ecosystems has been dramatically reduced. The Eurasian otter was known to inhabit rivers there long before the disaster and was consistently recorded thereafter but no species-focused survey was attempted. In 2018 the first otter survey within the exclusion zone was carried out looking for spraints and other signs of otter presence. Otter signs were found everywhere within the habitats studied but they appeared to use large and medium-sized rivers more than smaller ones, flood-plain lakes, and drainage canals most of which had become largely overgrown and unsuitable for otters. (OTTER, IOSF Journal Vol 5, 2019).

Apart from this there is very little detailed information on otters in Ukraine. The State Statistics Service of Ukraine website gives the estimated total number of otters in Ukraine for the period 2010-2019 and the latest figure is about 14,000.

Legal protection: Not known?

Threats: Road mortality and pollution.

United Kingdom

Species: Eurasian Otter

Otter numbers declined in the UK in the 1950s-1960s largely due to organochlorine pollution, although numbers remained relatively healthy in northern and western Scotland. Hunting was still permitted at this time which also took its toll on numbers. Following considerable efforts to clean the waterways and the introduction of legal protection, numbers have improved, but they are still some way below populations in the early 1950's.

There are reports in the media which suggest that they are present in every county and the implication is that they are now relatively common. However eel numbers in the UK have declined by over 90% and this is the favourite prey of freshwater otters in this country. Otters are certainly being seen in unusual and more urban locations, but there is no evidence to prove whether this means that they now have larger home ranges and have to travel further to obtain prey and holt sites, or that there are more otters. Population figures are based on surveys using spraint (faeces) and this cannot be used for actual numbers (Yoxon & Yoxon 2013) LINK TO

Otters in England and Wales are also dying at an earlier age than some of their European counterparts. Of the 110 otters examined by the Cardiff University Otter Project in 2010 only 10 were over four years old and the oldest was eight, compared with a maximum age of 16 in Germany.

Legal protection: Protected since 1979 (England, Wales and N Ireland) and 1983 (Scotland)

Threats: Habitat destruction, pollution and road mortality.

IOSF supported projects

  • 1988-present – Otter care and rehabilitation
  • Otter surveys of the Isles of Skye and Raasay (1995), Canna (1996), South Uist (1999), Pabay (2000), Barra (2000), Eigg (2001), Coll (2002), Tiree (2003), Harris (2005).
  • 1995 to present - Set up Otter Watch UK, a co-ordinated approach to monitoring otters in the UK.
  • 2001 – Installed wildlife warning reflectors on danger areas on Skye roads after initial trial reduced otter road deaths by 75%. This has been followed by further work into reducing road deaths in for example Orkney and Perthshire.
  • 2014-present – Monitoring of Skye otters
  • 2018-present – Team Otter children’s programme


You will find more information on IOSF projects here or contact

Web sites:

Yorkshire Otters
Otters in North Wales Page