Favourite animals: The Otter

The European otter

With a population which spreads much further afield than Europe, this European otter is a rare but cherished sight in the UK. They live next to waterways all over Britain and feed on the freshwater fish they catch.

After populations declined in the second half of the 20th century due to hunting, habitat loss and water pollution, much work was done to restore their natural habitats, and in 2011 the Environment Agency was happy to announce the return of the otter to every county in England. They do still have natural enemies along our waterways, though, including the American mink.

Otters are notoriously shy and many of the larger populations are to be found north of the border in Scotland, in remote areas, both on the east and west coasts, in the Highland rivers, and in Orkney and Shetland. These otters can live in salt water but they prefer fresh water, which they need to clean their fur.

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