Where are you likely to see otters?

Otters love water. So, they are found on the shores of rivers, lochs, waterways and coastal areas. The population is booming across Scotland after being pushed close to extinction back in mid 1900s. Relative to the UK, Scotland has a high proportion of the population, particularly on the western coast and islands. They are a protected species. 

Whilst numbers are growing, they can still be difficult to spot. They spend most of their time in the water and sleep and breed in holts, which are normally caves, burrows or holes. Otters are not specifically nocturnal, but they are typically more active at night. 

What do otters eat?

Otters need to eat at least 1kg of food per day and get most of their food from the water. Their fantastic swimming skills, waterproof fur, rudder-like tail and webbed feet make them brilliant aquatic hunters, and otters typically feed on fish, frogs and crustaceans. They also prey on birds and mammals on waterfronts. 

What are the threats to otters?

Whilst otters are protected, they can get injured by snares, which may be set for pest control but indiscriminately harm lots of wildlife and domestic animals. The Scottish SPCA supports a complete ban on the use of snares. 

Otters under a year old would not survive in the wild, so any youngsters need support. If a baby otter’s mother is killed or scared off, it will not be able to fend for itself. Many of the otters we rescue are babies, and come to our National Wildlife Rescue Centre where they stay until they are of age to make it on their own. 

Otters enjoy companionship, so where possible we pair them up. 

If you come across an otter cub that’s calling for its mother, observe it from a distance for a while if the cub is in a safe place. If the mother does not return within an hour or two or before dark, the cub needs to come in to our care. At that point, you should call our animal helpline on 03000 999 999.

If an otter appears injured, you should call us immediately. 

What happens once we rescue an otter?

We’ve successfully hand-reared and released lots of cubs back in to the wild over the years. 

As baby otters are dependent on their parents for a year, we need to look after them for months. We try to time a release with when they would naturally leave their parents to find their own home. Any release is meticulously planned and takes in to account landowner permission, the population of other otters in the area and suitability for the species to have a long and happy life.