Coastal Otters: A wildlife photographer’s guide – Otter Facts

Length: Average 1.2m (dogs), 1m (bitches)
Weight: Average 10.3kg (dogs), 7.4kg (bitches)
Colour: Medium to dark brown above and lighter underneath with pale throat.
Diet: Otters are carnivorous and eat around a kilo of food a day. They consume mainly fish, but also birds, small mammals, amphibians, crustaceans and molluscs.
Breeding: At anytime of year. Only once every 2 years as the cubs remain dependent on their mother for a year. The male plays no role in parental care, because a few days before the young otters are born, the female otter begins to bite her partner until the male otter leaves. Otherwise the male otter would probably eat his young generation, because he is not able to tell the difference between rats and new-born otters.
Gestation: 63 days / 9 weeks
Offspring: 1-4 cubs
Lifespan: Average 4 years due to so many threats, although they can live 8-12 years.
Habitat: Mainly rivers, but also canals, marshes, small streams, ditches, ponds and lakes. They also inhabit estuaries and coastal areas.
Home range: Depends on food supply but can be from 1 km along a rich coast to 40km along some rivers.
Resting sites: Called Holts, often tree roots but also drains, caves and holes in rock falls. They will also rest above ground in vegetation, sometimes called couches.
Social structure: As otters are very territorial they tend to live alone, except during mating and for a period, dependent on the mother, after the cubs are born.
Physical features: Short legs, webbed feet and claws, long stream-lined body, small ears and a broad muzzle, 2 layers of fur – a thick waterproof outer one and a warm inner one. Otters hunt by touch – their sensitive whiskers pick up vibrations of fish.
Special abilities: The European otter has an acute sense of sight, smell and hearing. The eyes are placed high on the head so that it can see when the rest of the body is below water.
Online Resources:
  1. The Environment Agency
  2. The Mammal Society
  3. Wikipedia
  4. OtterNet
  5. The Otter Trust


  1. Introduction
  2. Ground Rules
  3. Camera Gear
  4. Finding & Approaching
  5. Useful Observations
  6. Making Mistakes
  7. Stay Safe
  8. Otter Facts