Mammal Identification

Otter Lutra lutra

Identification features

photo of otter with its head out of the water

  • Medium sized mammal with short legs
  • Head has a broad flattened shape with small ears
  • Body fur is a mid-brown on the back and paler underneath.
  • Face is brown aboave a line from the ears to the nose and white below
  • Tail is long and sleek. It is approximately 60% of the length of the body and head length combined.

Otters are nocturnal and rarely seen during the day. If they are seen, they are usually swimming with only the head above the water.


Photo of the contents of otter spraint

Otter droppings (spraints) smell sweet, like fresh hay or jasmine tea. They contain fish bones and occasionally feathers and fur. Scats are used to mark territories and are usually places on prominent places such as rocks or ledges.

Spraints can often be found on ledges under bridges (when they have not been washed away by high water levels). The photograph shows the disassembled contents of a spraint.


Look in soft mud for otter tracks. Although otters have five toes, usually only four are seen on a footprint. Good otter prints will show an impression of the webbing between the toes.

Status in Derbyshire information

Photos: Mick Hoult, Derek Whiteley