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.
Dyr og Vækster, Lademanns Naturfører
Natur og Miljø, Magasin
Skov og Ntatur
Folk og Fauna 3, 1985
photo from Aqua-Freshwater Center in Silkeborg, Jutland, March 2009: grethe bachmann