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Lutra lutra

Otters have brown fur, a broad snout, webbed feet and a strong, powerful tail which acts as a rudder when swimming. They are much larger than their non-native cousin, the American mink, and are found near rivers, wetlands and by the coast.

Otters prefer a diet of fish but will also take waterfowl, amphibians and crustaceans. They are well adapted to a semi-aquatic life, can see well under water and swim comfortably at one metre per second.

Adult otters are solitary and only tolerate each other during mating, which can happen at any time of year. Females give birth to 1-3 cubs in a holt (a sheltered hole underground) or between rocks or tree roots. New-born cubs are about 12cm long and stay with their mothers for 12 months, learning the skills needed to survive. Cubs learn to swim at around 10 weeks old, often having to be pushed into the water by their mothers, as surprisingly they are not natural swimmers and have to learn.

Otters are a European Protected Species and are listed as ‘Near Threatened’ on the IUCN’s Red List. The species was virtually extinct in the UK by the 1970s but after a steady recovery is now present in every county in England. Otters are widespread across Somerset.

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