EcoNorth > What We Do > Protected Species & Habitat Surveys > Otters


otter holt


Otters, as well as their breeding and resting sites, are protected under:

  • The Wildlife and Countryside Act 1981 (as amended).
  • The Conservation of Habitat and Species Regulations 2010.

This legislation makes it an offence to deliberately or recklessly kill, harm, or take an otter from the wild. It is also an offence to deliberately or recklessly destroy or obstruct a breeding or resting place.

When do I need to get in touch?

Otters are a riverine species and are often present near waterways. Otters also shelter woodland close to waterways. If you are planning works near these habitats or are unsure as to whether otters could be present, get in touch and we will happily guide you through the process.

Additionally, a site’s potential to support otter is will be identified as part of a Preliminary Ecological Appraisal/Phase 1 Survey.

How can EcoNorth help me?

EcoNorth is experienced and able to undertake all types of otter surveys, licencing, and mitigation under current best practice guidelines from Natural England and Scottish Natural Heritage.

Otters are a European Protected Species (EPS). A licence is not required to undertake surveys for otter where surveys use non-invasive techniques. Where techniques used to survey otters may result in direct disturbance of them within a holt or a couch, a survey licence is required.

Different techniques exist to survey otters, the most commonly used of which is a detailed search for field signs. Field signs include: spraint (droppings which are commonly left on rocks in a watercourse), prey remains, holts and couches (places of rest and shelter; holts are underground, couches are above ground), and footprints. Typically, a surveyor will wade upstream, carefully searching for any of the above signs.

Camera trap surveys are also highly useful in ascertaining whether otters are present on a site. Motion-activated cameras are deployed in areas suspected to be of use to otters, left for several days, and then retrieved. Images and footage are then analysed and reported on. Should cameras be deployed to directly observe a rest site, a licence will be required as deployment and/or retrieval may result in disturbance. Deployment of camera traps away from a rest site does NOT require a licence.

If your proposed development is liable to affect otters, you will be required to enact mitigation, compensation, or enhancement measures to minimise any impacts. Any such works must be carried out under a European Protected Species Mitigation Licence (EPMSL) from Natural England or Scottish Natural Heritage.

EcoNorth delivers comprehensive, professional reports based on our findings to inform your projects planning application or other consenting process. We are also experienced in applying for mitigation licences and ensuring detailed method statements are in place to mitigate against potential impacts upon otters.