Otter Surveys

Specialised Otter Surveys

Otter numbers have reduced dramatically over the past 400 years until they were on the brink of extinction in England. Today, thanks to modern conservation policy, otter numbers are on the rise again. However, this protected species is still highly threatened. Otter Surveys may be required if you are planning to develop near or over a water body, such as a river or lake.

Otter surveys are carried out by JCA’s experienced ecologists and will assess the banks for signs of otter activity including footprints, feeding remains, droppings and holts. Otter surveys can be carried out between May to September with optimal survey period in spring when evidence is more easily observed.

Otters are a primarily nocturnal, semi-aquatic species, spending most of the day underground in Holts. At night they forage along rivers, streams, lakes, ponds, canals, marshes, coastal areas and estuaries, primarily for fish.

A single Otter’s territory can range anywhere from 20 to 40 km, with individuals being very territorial, marking their range with spraint (faeces). If otter are found to occur on or near a development site JCA can be commissioned to design a Mitigation Plan and apply for a Mitigation Licence from Natural England on your behalf. Further survey effort may be required if this is the case.

The majority of ecological surveys are seasonally constrained. Use our ecology survey calendar to plan your project timetable and factor in any seasonal constraints to project timescales as early as possible to prevent any delays.

Otters and the Law

Otters and their resting places are protected under European (Schedule 2 of the Conservation of Habitats and Species Regulations 2017) (as amended) (better known as the Habitats Regulations) and UK law (Schedule 5 of the Wildlife and Countryside Act 1981 (as amended). Under these legislations, it is an offense to:

  • Intentionally kill, injure or take an Otter
  • Possess or control any live or dead specimen or anything derived from an Otter (unless it can be shown to have been legally acquired)
  • Intentionally or recklessly damage, destroy or obstruct access to any structure or place used for shelter or protection by an Otter
  • Intentionally or recklessly disturb an Otter while it is occupying a structure or place which it uses for that purpose
  • Keep, transport, sell or exchange, or offer for sale or exchange a live or dead Otter or any part of an Otter