The otter is related to the badger, pine marten and stoat and is widespread throughout the country but seldom seen. Otters are called semi-aquatic because they spend most of their time in water but they rest up and rear their young on land.
The otter has a flattened wedge-shaped head, long body, short legs, webbed toes and a long thick tapering tail. It swims low in the water, with just its head visible, while on land it has a distinct hump-backed appearance.
The otter is a native mammal that has been present in Ireland for almost 10,000 years. In water it is distinguished from the smaller non-native mink (which escaped from fur farms) in water by swimming lower and on land by its longer tail.
One of its Irish names is Madra uisce, meaning water dog.
Where does it live?
The otter always lives close to water and is highly territorial. It marks its territory, which can extend for several kilometres, by leaving droppings called spraints in obvious places, such as under bridges or on large stones. It uses two types of resting place, those above ground in thick or overgrown vegetation are called 'couches' and those dug amongst tree roots or in river banks resembling tunnels are called 'holts'. The young, called cubs, are borne at any time of the year but usually in spring and summer and remain with the female for several months.
What does it eat?
Otters are mainly piscivorous, which means they eat fish such as trout, salmon, sticklebacks and eels but also freshwater crayfish and frogs. Otters are nocturnal but are also described as ‘crepuscular’, meaning they are most active at dusk and dawn.
The footage was supplied by ECO FACT and was filmed on a hidden trail cam. It's very hard to spot otters so this is amazing to see them.
Thanks to our friends at the Vincent Wildlife Trust for telling us all about these animals.
Thanks to Johnny Birks for the photo.