Nature Champions: Otter

(c) Sandra Graham

Otters are one of our top predators and also the UK’s largest carnivore. Otters are well suited to life on the land and in water as they are excellent swimmers. They have webbed feet to help them glide through the water, dense fur to keep them warm because they don’t have any body fat, this means when they are on land they can move quickly. They can close their ears when underwater to help them stay submerged for longer and have a very powerful tail to help them swim.

The otter belongs to the Mustelid family along with the badger, pine marten, stoat, weasel and the American mink. Active and breeding throughout the year a female otter has her cubs in underground burrows known as holts.

Most of the Scottish otter population is found along the coast but they also live in freshwater lakes, rivers and canals.



Action Needed

  1. Ensure any new developments, including housing and roads, consider otters to avoid destroying holts
  2. Encourage wildlife watching groups to be aware of the risk they pose when taking people to see otters
  3. Use mitigation measures to reduce road deaths
  4. Fit all fyke nets with an otter guard
  5. Develop coherent agri environment/climate schemes, within the Regional Land use Partnership structure, to provide habitat
  6. Develop and implement a coherent Scottish Nature Network so actions can be targeted to support species and habitats 
  7. Ensure the Scottish Biodiversity Strategy addresses the IPBES drivers fully.
  8. Ensure a healthy freshwater and marine environment to sustain fish stocks and healthy otter populations


Scotland’s otters are most at risk from road accidents. Although our waterways are cleaner, pollution continues to be a problem with the presence of heavy metals and other chemicals. Litter can have a serious effect and otters have had serious injuries from plastics, fishing line etc. There are also other threats such as creel and eel nets and mechanical kelp dredging. Disturbance is a big problem with more and more people wanting to watch otters not realising the damage they can cause if the animal is prevented from finishing their prey or caring for cubs.

MSP Nature Champion

Kate Forbes

Member for: Skye, Lochaber and Badenoch

Region: Highlands and Islands

Party: Scottish National Party

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