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Loutre d'Europe

The European otter

The European otter, Lutra lutra, is a carnivorous mammal from the Mustelidae family which can weigh up to 11 kg. It lives in ponds, lakes and rivers and mainly feeds on fish and amphibians.


Class, order and family :
Mammalia, Carnivora, Mustelidae
Life span :
up to 14 years in captivity
Size & Weight :
1 – 1.30 m with tail and 6 - 11 kg
Gestation period :
2 months for 1 - 4 otter cubs
Natural habitat :
lakes, ponds and rivers
Diet :
carnivore – fish and amphibians
Native region :
Eurasia, North Africa
Statut UICN : 

Near threatened (NT)


Although it can rarely hold its breath for more than a minute, the otter is a mammal which is especially well adapted to life in and around water. During the day, the otter hides in the vegetation along the banks or in its burrow. Called a holt, it has an entrance hidden under the water and an air-hole on land. The European otter is difficult to see in the daytime. It is easier to find its droppings or tracks, which mark strategic points of its territory and tell the males about the female's’ readiness to mate.

Distinctive features

Its streamlined hydrodynamic body ends in a powerful pointed tail. Its dense coat limits heat-loss and keeps it dry. The otter has webbed feet at the front and back and its extra-sensitive whiskers can detect the movement of the water made by its prey.


The otter is threatened by the degradation of its habitat, such as the drying out of wetlands, the construction of dams and the intensive use of pesticides. It also falls victim to traffic collisions and snares. Locally extinct, it is gradually recolonising certain rivers in France thanks to sustained protection since 1972.