Eurasian Otter: Habitat, Diet, Lifespan & Facts

Instructor: Lauren Posey

Lauren has taught intermediate reading in an English Language Institute, and she has her Master's degree in Linguistics.

In this lesson you'll learn about one of the most widespread otter species: the Eurasian otter. We'll look at its habitat, diet, and lifespan, as well as some interesting facts.

The Eurasian Otter

How long can you hold your breath? Without special training, most people can hold their breath for 30 seconds to a minute before they are pretty uncomfortable. A Eurasian otter can hold its breath for twice that long, quite easily! Eurasian otters (Lutra lutra) are semiaquatic, which means they split their time between land and water. Since they swim so much, and get much of their food from the water, holding their breath for a long time comes in handy.

The Eurasian otter is also known as the European river otter
Eurasian otter

Habitat

The Eurasian otter is one of the most widespread mammal species. It lives on the European, Asian, and African continents, and is native to around 81 different countries. Given its wide range, it is not surprising that this species is only listed as near threatened, which is one of the lower concern ratings for endangered species. Basically, it means this species could become threatened in the future. It was listed this way because of a population decline, but with current conservation efforts, the population in many countries seems to be recovering.

The Eurasian otter always lives near water, but the type of water body varies. They live near streams, rivers, lakes, swamps, and along coastlines, depending on the country. This species prefers areas where there is a lot of plant life along the shore or river bank. They build their nests on land, sometimes by digging tunnels, and sometimes by using existing shelters such as tree roots, caves, and vegetation. They are typically nocturnal, which means they sleep during the day and are most active at night, though this varies somewhat by country. For the most part Eurasian otters live alone, except when a mother has young babies.

Eurasian otters often sleep in their nests during the day, and are active at night
Eurasian otter in nest

Diet

As you might expect, given their semiaquatic lifestyle, much of the diet of a Eurasian otter comes from the water. They eat a lot of fish and crabs, and sometimes other shellfish. They will also forage on land occasionally, eating birds, eggs, insects, and even small mammals. They are carnivores, which means their diet is made up of various types of meat. They spend a lot of time foraging, and will usually eat more than two pounds of food every day.

Lifespan

As is the case with many species, Eurasian otters tend to live longer in captivity than in the wild. In the wild, assuming they live out their full natural lives, they might live to be around 17 years old. In captivity they can live to be 22 years old.

Interesting Facts

Though Eurasian otters mostly live alone, they do care for their cubs. Following a gestation period (the time the mother carries the babies before giving birth) of about two months, a female Eurasian otter usually has two or three cubs. They will stay with her for a little over a year, and they can mate and have babies of their own after they are two to three years old.

Otters are known to be playful creatures, and the Eurasian otter is no exception. They have been seen sliding down muddy river banks, and leaping and chasing one another. In addition to being fun, this teaches young otters good hunting skills.

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