Sunday, October 17, 2010


Lutra lutra

The otter's slim body is about 1,2-1,5 m long including the tail. It belongs to the marten-family and has a good adaptibility in various climatic conditions. Undisturbed lakes and rivers are few in Denmark and the otter-population is rather small - today is the Otter-population ab. 1000 animals. It is almost impossible to see an otter in Denmark - it is out at night and is very shy. In Denmark the otter live especially in lakes and water streams in North- , Mid- and West-Jutland, but it has just been rediscovered at Zealand, a signal of an increasing population. In the beginning of the 1980s there were only about 100-200 otters in Denmark. Today we can enjoy the lively otter at Aqua Freshwater Center in Silkeborg.

The otter is adapted to water and moves elegantly in the water. Its fur is thick and dark brown with a lighter breast. It has a flat head and a strong neck and long whiskers. It has developed various traits which helps it in the water. 1) The nostrils close to keep water out. 2) The small ears close below water . 3) The whiskers register movements under water. 4) The otter has web among the toes which makes it a quick and steady swimmer.
The otter lives almost only of fish and swims several km at night when hunting. It hunts small fish and has no favorites, but takes prey easy to catch. During the hunt the otter localize the prey by help of its sight and the sensitive whiskers. A dive lasts average one minute but the otter can stay under water up to 6 minutes before it has to go up to breathe. Lesser prey is eaten in the water while the large prey is dragged upon land.

Old Norse name for Otter is otr; from sanskrit udra-h, indoeuropean udro-s = water animal. The Danish name Odder has been used as a personal byname since the 1300s - and is also used in several place names. Bones of Otter have been found in settlements from Denmarks early Stone Age. In 1479 is mentioned gloves made of otter skin. A man had in 1609 the king's permission to catch otters and in return yearly deliver five skins to the king. Several royal permissions were given in this way in the 1600s. The skin was in the 1600s and later on used for muffs. In 1864 it was called our most valuable furs. (in DK)

The otter was considered a terrible fish robber, it was mildly said not popular because it took fish in the fishpond and in the well boxes. People hunted the otter both for its skin and because it stole their fish. The contour hairs were used for hats, stockings and brushes. The night-hunting for otters were forbidden in 1922, and in 1967 the otter was totally listed.

In an old Norse legend Oter caught a fish while he was in the figure of an otter; one day while he was sitting on the beach eating a salmon he was killed by Loke with a stone. The Ase-gods were happy for this catch and skinned the animal, but they were later caught by Oter's father and had as a penance and ransom to pay an otter-skin filled with gold and covered in gold.


People said that the eyes of an otter were like fire, which frightened the chickens at night, so they fell down and became its prey.
Eight days before Midnight's Eve or eight days after the otter stays on dry land when the sun shines warmly.
The otter has to arch its back three times before it can run.
Small children was kept away from the village pond because the otter was lurking for them in the water.

Addition: People must contact the game consultant at the local State Forest District, if they find a dead otter.

Protection: Habitatdirektive II+IV; Protected; Bonn Convention-list I; Natura 2000 etc.

Natura 2000 Status of Otter: Uncertain Status of Preservation.

AQUA Ferskvandscenter

Dyr og Vækster, Lademanns Naturfører
Naturguide Magasin
Natur og Miljø, Magasin
Skov og Ntatur
Folk og Fauna 3, 1985

photo from Aqua-Freshwater Center in Silkeborg, Jutland, March 2009: grethe bachmann


Teresa Evangeline said...

I have had the privilege of seeing an otter a few times in nature. what interesting creatures they are. I always have found it amusing when people get mad at animals for being who they are and acting accordingly, as you mentioned here. Taking fish is what they do. I can see why they would be disappointed in losing their fish, though, especially those all ready caught and in the well-box. : )

Murr Brewster said...

"Our" fish, indeed! We need to get over ourselves. In the meantime, I thought I would add the important information that otter poop has its own name: "spraint." You're welcome.

Thyra said...

Teresa, I think too that it is so crazy and stupid that humans do not understand the natural behaviour of animals. They have a cat, oh yes, a wonderful little kittie, but if they see the cat hunt a bird, oh dear, this is awful. We admire the birds of prey, the romantic beautiful birds, but if the hawk takes a dove, oh how dreadful. This is nature for you, and if you cannot take it, stay at home.

Murr Brewster; thank you for the name spraint.
Yes, we just do not understand. We believe that nature is there for us only!


Teresa Evangeline said...

Grethe, I had to tell you, I'm giggling over your reply. "If you cannot take it, stay at home." I'm still giggling. You have a lovely sense of humor that I've been noticing lately in your posts and replies. When people speak the truth back to the absurdities of life, I find it amusing, 'cause it's so true! Thank you.

Thyra said...

Oh Teresa, I was actually afraid if I had been impolite. I was not happy when I read it after I had sent it, but I'm so glad that you are giggling! Sometimes I feel I shouldn't have written this or that, but it's too late when I have sent the comment! I can sleep now, while you are giggling!
Grethe ´)