Eurasian Otter - Lutra Lutra

The Eurasian otter is in decline everywhere in their traditional home ranges except in Ireland where the densest population now exist. Most populations of otters in Europe are listed as being vulnerable, in decline or extinct making the Irish population all the more important. The practice of hunting and trapping is now banned but the destruction of their habitats, human disturbance and falling water quality levels are a threat to the Irish otter population. If cubs are born in winter or early spring mortality rates are high.

Man is the main cause of otter death due to increased road traffic and the accidental drowning of coastal otters in lobster pots and fish nets. Dogs also account for a number of otter cub deaths each year. Otters can cause damage to fish hatcheries and farms so adequate fencing is needed in such areas.
Interestingly, the available information on otter-mink dynamics in GB seems to indicate that mink have declined in areas where otter numbers are recovering – ie food/habitat competition in otters’ favour. Reflecting its importance the Eurasian otter is a protected species under Irish, EU and international legislation.

Otter Crimes

Otters are protected by law in the Republic of Ireland under the Wildlife Acts 1976 to 2012.
They are also protected under the Bern Convention (Appendix III) and EU Directive 92/43 Annex II, Annex IV

Unless authorised to do so under a valid licence/permission/derogation granted by the Minister for Arts, Heritage and the Gaeltacht under the Wildlife Acts 1976 to 2012 it is unlawful to:-

  • Hunt or kill (or attempt to do so) an otter
  • Wilfully interfere with or destroy an otter holt (its breeding and resting place)
  • Possess an otter, whether alive or dead, or any part, product or derivative thereof other than one lawfully taken pursuant to the Wildlife Acts
  • Sell, keep or offer for sale, or engage in taxidermy in respect of an otter or any parts, products or derivatives thereof other that by a licensed wildlife dealer with a lawfully acquired specimen


Otters are sometimes trapped illegally with wire snares. Even when they are the unintended target the consequences for them can be fatal. The snare lodges around the neck and they may even get a front leg through as well but all too often they are snared around the abdomen just in front of the pelvis.
An otter is a strong animal and will put up a huge struggle when snared, often lasting for days until it dies from injury and exhaustion.

Recording evidence at the Crime Scene

Assessing whether a criminal offence has taken place may not always be straight forward and other possibilities such as natural deaths, predation and legal hunting should be considered.

If you come across a wildlife crime scene or a dead bird or object that may be related to a wildlife crime, every piece of information is – or might be – important, but it needs to be recorded properly and accurately for the authorities to have a chance of prosecuting an offender.

Reporting an otter crime

To report suspected illegal otter activity contact the National Parks & Wildlife Service
Tel: 01-888 3242 or LoCall 1890 383 000

For a pdf of contact numbers for your local NPWS Conservation Ranger click HERE

If you can’t reach NPWS personnel call An Garda Síochána:

If the crime is in progress or about to happen, or if the offender is still at the scene or has just left call 999 or 112

If the event is finished then either call your local Garda Station (Garda Stations Directory) or the Garda Confidential Telephone Number 1800 666 111

[Although it will assist the NPWS and Gardaí if you provide as much information as possible, you do not have to give your name if you ring to report an incident.]

If the otter is alive and is injured, also call a wildlife rehabilitator/vet from the contacts page of Irish Wildlife Matters Irish Wildlife Matters

For more information on reporting a crime click HERE