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Why are otters so charming?

Why are otters so charming?

From their curious faces to their charming behaviours, the otters of the world have earned the title of many nature lovers’ favourite creatures. We offer you five reasons why we believe these mammals are so charming and special.

 

 

Ireland has always had a very special relationship with otters. References to otters appear in early Irish poems and manuscript drawings and in old Irish mythology otters were said to have helped St Brendan on his voyage. Today, Ireland is home to a healthy and relatively stable population of otters, as their populations have been in decline elsewhere since the 1960’s.

Here are 5 reasons that we believe that otters are both special and charming ...

  1. Irish Otters are an endemic race.

    The Irish Otter is an endemic race - having been identified almost 200 years ago. Endemic is a term that refers to a distinct race or species that originated in a local place or region, and that has a geographically restricted distribution. Islands situated in remote regions of the oceans that are physically isolated from other land-masses and, thus, are likely to develop endemic species. Ireland is today home to the highest population density of otters in Europe.

     

  2. Otters are intriguingly elusive.

    While Ireland is home to a stable population of otters (thought to be in the region of 10,000 adults) few people are familiar with otters or have been lucky enough to spot an otter. This is because their nocturnal foraging habits and extreme shyness renders them elusive to all but the most patient humans. Your best chance to observe an otter is to familiarise yourself with their footprints and try then try to spot them along a mucky river bank or damp sandy shore.

     

  3. Otters transform in water into delightful gymnasts.

    Otters are always found by water, living by small streams or major rivers, in upland lakes and rocky beaches. On land the otter shuffles along, with a slightly humpbacked appearance. Once immersed in water, however, the otter transforms into a sleek gymnastic performer, executing impressive underwater tumbles, twists and turns in pursuit of fish. Otters have powerful tails which are a third of the length of their bodies and they use their tails to propel themselves through water. Their eyes are designed for underwater vision and researchers believe they may be able to smell underwater. 

     

  4. Otters are playful, cheerful and even hold hands.

    Otters are extremely playful and when they sense security they will frolic about uttering their cheerful chattering calls to one another. There is no more charming scene in nature than a family of otters having fun together. Otters have particularly charming whiskers on their snouts. These whiskers are called vibrissae and otters use them to detect prey underwater by sensing changes in water turbulence. Sea otters are said to hold hands to avoid younger otters floating away.

     

  5. There are many great words to learn when describing otters - and our favourite is ‘madra uisce’.

    Otter droppings are called spraints. Males are called boars. Females are sows. Young are pups. They live in holts. A group of otters on land is called a bevy. If they are having fun they are called a romp. Unless they are playing on rocks and in that case they are called a hover. Or a couch. If they are in the water they are called a raft. An alternative Irish name for the otter is ‘Madra uisce’ or ‘water dog’ - a name that suggests its playful nature and appearance.

Notes:

  • This is a great guide for spotting signs of otters - https://www.mullottergroup.co.uk/about-otters/otter-signs/

  • This is another guide with further information about Irish Otters in particular - https://www.vincentwildlife.ie/species/otter

  • In Ireland we have only one species of otter - and there is no formal distinction in size or behaviour made between sea otters and river otters. Those that live along the coast will also need to have access to a fresh-water source. Elsewhere there is a differentiation between sea otters and river otters.

  • On urban otters in Ireland - https://www.irishtimes.com/news/environment/monitoring-the-otter-ireland-s-elusive-enigmatic-river-dweller-1.4081883

 
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