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Over recent years, national affection and dedicated conservation efforts have helped ensure the long-term survival of this animal, whose ancestors inhabited the earth some 30 million years ago.

Otter sat on log in water among reeds

There are 13 different otter species worldwide, but the Eurasian otter is the only species to inhabit Europe. These short-limbed mammals can be found in France, Greece, Spain, Turkey and Scandinavia. Happily the UK population is showing healthy signs of growth after its sad decline in the 1950s. Otters are now found in most of England and Wales as conservation efforts successfully encourage their return.

Lakes, rivers and rocky or coastal areas are the otters' natural habitats, and they can also be spotted hunting prey in quiet stretches of the canals. Otter territories are vast, covering up to 25 miles (40km) of watercourses and dense vegetation or wooded areas, which they use for resting purposes and for breeding 'holts' (their homes).

However, otters are timid and not often observed by humans. You're more likely to come across one of their smaller and more confident cousins, the mink.

Family nature guide 2019

Download your free nature guide

Identify footprints and read fascinating facts about the creatures who make their homes along our canals and rivers

Last Edited: 16 November 2020

photo of a location on the canals
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