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Whale and Dolphin watching on the Isle of Mull

European Otter

Otters are semi-aquatic fish-eating mammals in the same family as Badgers, polecats and weasels.

They have a long, furry body and tail, with short limbs, and are well camouflaged against the seaweed, their main resting place when out of the water. Around the rest of the UK otters are usually only found by their trails as they are nocturnal, however on Mull they are more dependent on the state of the tide rather than the time of day. An incoming tide on a rocky shore and a bit of patience give you the best chance to see Otters on Mull. When seen in the water they can easily be distinguished from seals by their long furry tail which they will show when diving and their pointier face as opposed to the seals more rounded one.

Whilst more commonly found in rivers, European Otters can live along the coast as they do on Mull, because of this they are commonly mistaken for Sea Otters. The 'proper' Sea Otters however, are restricted to North America and are almost wholly marine, whilst the coastal otters in the UK need to live close to a supply of freshwater to clean their coats.

Otters feed on a range of fish species and crustaceans, with Butterfish being a particular favourite around Mull. Otters have a high metabolic rate to keep warm and therefore have to consume a large amount of food, Eurasian Otters need to consume about 15% of their body weight per day and spend between 3 and 5 hours a day feeding.

Otters have territories that range from 1 to 25 miles, and the size of the territory is governed by the food density within an area. Despite being mainly solitary and being protective of their territories they usually only guard their area from invasion by other Otters of the same sex, therefore it is possible to have male and females sharing an area.

Last edited 11/02/2011