The Otter - Lutra lutra -Nutria Europea (in Spain the European otter)

Otter – Lutra lutra -Nutria Europea

The Otter – Lutra lutra -Nutria Europea is a carnivorous mammal in the subfamily Lutrinae. They are semiaquatic in Spain with diets based mostly on fish and invertebrates.

Although most European otters tend to prey primarily on fish, some have developed a taste for frogs and toads—a food choice that requires some deft preparation. Because common toads (Bufo bufo) have toxins in both their skin and the glands on either side near the front of their bodies, these resourceful otters use their sharp teeth to remove the skin from the back half of the toads and then eat just the hind legs. While common frogs (Rana rana) don’t have toxic skin or glands, most otters appear to not know the difference, and generally play it safe by following the same food-prep routine they use on toads.

Brilliant photo of an otter with a frog here:

A slow population recovery

With the creation of many natural and national parks in Spain and other environmental awareness campaigns the otter population seems to have increased (certainly in Andalusia) over the past 20 years. However, the recovery has been “relatively” slow, and in some areas the impact of human activities still prevents the species from expanding into new territory.

There is also a concern that river water quality is still declining in many areas due to overuse of agricultural and home used chemicals such as household cleaning products pesticides and herbicides. The otter relies on a clean and healthy river environment for its food supply so the consequences of pollution are devasating for this mammal

Signs, smells and behaviour

You are most likely to smell an otter living in an area well before you see one. The feces (spraints) are typically identified by their distinctive aroma, the smell of which has been described as ranging from freshly cut grass to putrefied stinking fish. The holt is built under a fallen tree, root or rocky outcrop and lined with grasses, moss and leaves.

Otter spraint left on a rock
Otter spraint left on a rock in a mostly dry riverbed and a beautiful dragonfly

Sexual maturity is reached at around two years of age and males at approximately three years. The gestation period in otters is about 60 to 86 days. The newborn pup is cared for by both parents. After one month the pup starts exploring outside of the holt and after about two months is able to swim without the aid of its parents. The pup lives with its family for approximately one year and they can have a lifespan of around 16 years.

Otters are mischievous by nature and can often be seen enjoying the company of other family members playing and chasing each other in the water.

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