The Eurasian Otter

The Eurasian Otter (Lutra lutra) is a semiaquatic mammal belonging to the Mustelidae family of carnivorous mammals; along with ferrets, stoats, minks, badgers and wolverines. Also known as the European otter, Eurasian river otter, Old World otter, and the elusive common otter. It is native to Eurasia and is the most widely distributed of all thirteen otter species.  The Eurasian otter is native to 81 countries and its distribution is from Western Europe and across Asia to China and Japan.  They are absent in Iceland and some of the Mediterranean Islands.  They are believed to have come to Ireland at the end of the last ice age around 10,000 years ago with evidence of their bones found in Bronze Age sites dated from 4,000 years ago. 

Most populations of otters in Europe are listed as being vulnerable, in decline or extinct, making the Irish population important.  They are in decline everywhere in their traditional home ranges except in Ireland where the densest population now exist. This makes Ireland a crucial stronghold for the Eurasian otter. Despite this, our otters still face many threats and require protection to maintain their population. These threats include habitat loss, pollution and anthropogenic disturbance. Otters rely on good quality water and healthy riparian habitats for food and shelter. 

Otters are a keystone species and play a vital role in the ecosystem, so it is crucial that they are protected. The practice of hunting and trapping is now banned (The Wildlife (Amendment) Act, 2000), but the destruction of their habitats, human disturbance and falling water quality levels are a threat to the Irish otter population.

Otter Project

Cork Nature Network began working on our otter project in 2016 in Cork City due to concerns about the loss of suitable otter habitats in the city. Through this project, Cork Nature Network’s goal was to increase public interest in otters. The effectiveness of our efforts has been recognised by the International Otter Survival Fund which awarded Cork Nature Network ‘Best Group/Organisation’ in 2021.

Cork Nature Network Successful Initiatives Include:

  • We are currently running a national otter citizen science project, Otter Spotters. To learn more, please visit our Citizen Science page.
  • In 2023 we ran two research projects on Otter spraint distribution in Cork City and Cork Harbour and a survey on connectivity. This was funded by  Cork City Council, National Parks and Wildlife Service, Office of Public Works and Cork County Council.
  • In 2022 Cork Nature Network secured funding from the Local Waters and Community Office and Cork County Council Community Fund to run a project on otters in Youghal.  We partnered with Youghal Blue and Green Community Network and Gaelscoil Choráin to promote otters in the community and local school. A school competition was organised with school children, posters were produced and prizes awarded. The results are shown in the Otterly Youghal leaflet.
  • In 2022 we developed an online resource pack for primary school teachers on otters funded by Fota Wildlife Park.
  • In 2021 Cork Nature Network released a short film about Cork’s otters. The aim of this film was to teach people about the habits and behaviours of the elusive otter. This was filmed and directed by Tom Mason and funded by Cork City Council, Lush, The Heritage Council and Patagonia. You can watch the film here.
  • In 2020 Cork Nature Network was commissioned to conduct research on the rivers of Cork City and Cork Harbour to ascertain the distribution of otters. The project was funded by Fota Wildlife Park, Cork City Council, The National Parks and Wildlife Service and the Office of Public Works. The research outcomes included there were several areas in the study area where there was considerable otter activity. It also examined methods of collecting DNA and looked at the otter diet. The results are published in this pdf: Cork Nature Network Otter Report 2022.
  • In 2018 Grace Walsh, a student from University College Cork, collaborated with Cork Nature Network to conduct a camera trapping survey to determine how effective motion sensor cameras are at detecting otters. This study found that otters were present at the study site and were primarily active at night and recommended future research and conservation of these otters.
  • Between 2016 and 2017 Cork Nature Network conducted a Citizen Science Survey to assess the presence of otters in the River Bride. You can read the report of this survey here.
  • Cork Nature Network has run many promotional projects in Blackpool, including a children’s storytelling hour in Blackpool library, a visual display in Blackpool Shopping Centre, and talks on otters. A video called Resourceful Rivers has also been produced to show the connectivity between humans and aquatic habitats.

Otter Trails

Cork Nature Network have developed a number of otter trails to encourage awareness of otters by showing their habitats and providing information at the same time via signs along the route.

Cork City Otter Trail

In 2020, Cork Nature Network created a trail in Cork City along the banks of the River Lee which contains signs and information about Cork’s otters. This unique walkway was the first of its kind in Ireland and aims to increase public awareness about nature, to encourage people to get outdoors and engage with their local wildlife. 

It has been highly successful in increasing enthusiasm and education about Cork’s wonderful otters. The trail starts at the Christy Ring Bridge on Camden Quay and ends in Fitzgerald’s Park and provides a beautiful view of the river Lee where you might even get lucky enough to spot one of our local otters!

otter in Cork City

Bishopstown Trail

The second trail was created in Bishopstown following the Twopot River, ending at the Curraheen River walk. This trail was created in collaboration with Cork City Council and Bishopstown Tidy Towns. Download the signs from the trail here or click the image to the left.

Ballincollig Trail

The third trail was created in Ballincollig Regional Park along the River Lee. We would like to thank Cork City Council, Government of Ireland, Pobal and Healthy Ireland for funding the project and Ballincollig Tidy Towns for their support of the Ballincollig otter trail. 
Download the signs for this trail here or click the image to the left.

If you would like to work with us to develop an otter trail in your local area please contact us.

Cork Nature Network would like to extend thanks to our partners, sponsors and funders for supporting this valuable work.

Otter Tales- Short Stories

Otter Tales is a collection of short stories that won the 2022 short story contest organised by Cork Nature Network. These tales are focused on one of Ireland’s favourite river dwellers, the otters. All proceeds from the sale of this book go towards Cork Nature Network by the generosity of the authors involved.

by Méabh McMahon (Author), Thomas Lawrance (Author), Gemma Galvin (Author), William Falo (Author), Paul Bond (Author), Sabarrish Srinivasan (Editor)

To order a copy please click here.

View our Cork Otters Video

Further Information and Resources

Attie the Otter

Visit Our Primary School Otter Pack and Get to Know its Key Character, Attie the Otter.

Acknowledgements

Rebecca O’ Sullivan, Ciaran Coghlan, Chris Moody, Youghal Blue & Green and Kristin Bracewell

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Image Credits

eurasian otter

Eurasian Otter. Credit: Mark Zekhuis

Eurasion otter

Eurasian Otter. Credit: Mark Zekhuis

Otter

Eurasian Otter. Credit: Basil O'Sullivan

Otter in natuurpark Lelystad

Eurasian Otter. Credit: Jan Nijendijk

Otter

Eurasian Otter. Credit: Mark Zekhuis

otter in Cork City

Otter in Cork City. Credit: Chris Martin

Red fox cub

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