Lutra lutra meridionalis

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Rare and Endangered Animals of Armenia

The European Otter

The European Otter (Lutra lutra) is a European member of the Mustelidae or weasel family, and is typical of freshwater otters. It may also be known as the Eurasian river otter, common otter, or Old World otter. For the rest of this article 'otter' will refer specifically to the European otter, although the information may be applicable to other otter species.

The European otter is the most widely distributed otter species, the name being something of a misnomer, as the species' range includes parts of Asia and Africa, as well as being spread across Europe. The otter is believed to be extinct in Liechtenstein, the Netherlands, and Switzerland.

An otter's diet mainly consists of fish but can also include birds, insects, frogs, crustaceans and sometimes small mammals. In general this opportunism means they may inhabit any unpolluted body of freshwater, including lakes, streams, rivers, and ponds, as long as there is good supply of food. Otters may also live along the coast, in salt water, but require regular access to freshwater to clean their fur.

Otters are strongly territorial, living alone for the most part, with individual's home ranges varying between 1-40 km, with about 18 km being usual, depending on the density of food available. Males and females will breed at any time of the year when mating takes place in water. After a gestation period of about 63 days 1-4 cubs are born, which remain dependant on the mother for a year. The male has little, if any, role in parental care.

Hunting mainly takes place at night, while the day is usually spent in the otter's holt, a burrow in the riverbank which can only be entered from underwater.

Trapping for their dense fur has been has been the main conservation risk for many otter species, but the European otter faces another threat. The increasing intensification of farming across Europe in the 20th century included the use of chlorinated hydrocarbon pesticides, which were prone to leaching into the bodies of water otters inhabit, and in high concentrations became poisonous to animals. Because of the effect of bioaccumulation, otters, at the top of the food chain, suffered most from this phenomenon, resulting in a rapid decline in the second half of the 20th century.

However, concerted efforts are now being made to integrate otters alongside modern farming methods, including the use of biodegradable pesticides. In Britain this is yielding results as the number of sites with an otter presence is increasing.

Otters are listed as Vulnerable by the 2000 IUCN Red List.

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Animal in Armenia

Կովկասյան ջրասամույր ("Kovkasyan jrasamuyr")


Under the menace disappearing. Included in the Red Book of the former USSR.

Habitat in Armenia

Was met in Armenia almost everywhere.

Number in the wild

Current number not available.

Reasons for decrease in number

For the last 50 years the number has sufficiently decreased due to the outflow of water from Lake Sevan, decrease of marshland area and rivers, and general decrease of quality of environment. Other reason is the soiling of rivers and lakes by industrial and agricultural waste which decreases the number of fish in the rivers.

Number in captivity

No data

Measures of protection taken

Hunting is forbidden since 1960.

External links