Eurasian otter

Lutra lutra





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Not evaluated Data deficient Least concern Near threatened VULNERABLE Endangered Critically endangered Extinct in the wild Extinct
Assessment info
Habitat and Ecology
Use and Trade
Conservation Actions


Scientific name

Lutra lutra


Linnaeus, 1758



Assessment info

IUCN Red List Category and Criteria

VU, D1

Date assessed

December 2020


Aleksandar Stojanov

Dime Melovski

Aleksandar Pavlov


Diana Zlatanova


Vasko Avukatov


Marteen P.G. Hofman


The Eurasian otter is a widespread mammal species found across Europe, many parts of Asia and some parts of Northern Africa. The status of its population is not known from many parts of its range, however the species has been considered as near threatened on a global level due to an ongoing population decline.
In North Macedonia, Eurasian otter is distributed across the country, inhabiting most of the existing major water bodies. However, there are areas with low or no otter population, especially in the southern and south-eastern parts of the country. Based on existing information and expert judgment, the population size is estimated to be 350-400 individuals, which qualifies the taxon as Vulnerable (D1). The trend of the population is suspected to be decreasing due to the ongoing threats to the population, which lead to decline of the extent and quality of suitable habitats, and increased mortality. Otter population in North Macedonia is estimated to have connections to otters in Albania, part of Greece and probably Serbia. The connection with the Bulgarian population is critical as the population of both sides is low and further decline will lead to fragmentation. In Albania and Bulgaria, species is considered to be vulnerable, while in Greece, it is considered endangered.
Future monitoring and research are needed in order to calibrate the data presented in this assessment but also avoid possible steep decline of the species.


Current population trend



As in many parts of its range, the size and trend of otter population in the Republic of North Macedonia is not known due to the lack of systematic research and monitoring of the taxon. There is only distribution data collected through various projects since 2006.
Using habitat extent, average female home range and proportion of positive sites (Marnell et al., 2011; Georgiev, 2007), the population of otter in North Macedonia was estimated to be approximately 350-400 individuals. It is suspected that the otter population is declining due to the habitat degradation, water pollution and poaching.

Habitat and Ecology



Habitat and Ecology

Eurasian otter can be found in a variety of both natural and man-made aquatic habitats, such as lakes, water reservoirs, rivers, ponds, marshes, swamps, fish farms, drainage channels and ditches. Otters are strongly dependent on riparian vegetation and availability of denning sites, such as holes in the riverbanks or cavities under trees, rocks etc. Most otter activity is found in a narrow strip along the water’s edge, but they may be found up to 1 km away from water.
The otter is a solitary and highly territorial species and their territories can stretch for several km depending on the prey availability. Otter diet is diverse and can be composed of fish (about 80%), small mammals, birds, amphibians, crustaceans, snails, snakes and insects.

Use and trade

Use and trade

There is no known use of or trade in this species. There are cases where stuffed otters are displayed for ornamental purpose.



The main threats to otter population in North Macedonia are: dikes and correction of riverbeds, removal of bankside vegetation, poaching (mainly near fish farms), construction of small hydropower plants, reduction of the quantity of fish, pollution of waters, draining of wetlands and aquaculture activities.
In the past 10 years, the construction of small hydropower plants on many rivers across the country has led to habitat destruction and loss of fish stock due to decrease in water level (in many cases being below ecological minimum, especially during summer).
Despite the fact that otter is strictly protected species in North Macedonia, many otters have been illegally killed/trapped due to the conflicts with owners of fish farms. There are many fish farms built near rivers, and when otters reach or enter the fish farms are being killed and trapped.
Pollution of rivers is another major threat to otter population in North Macedonia that affects them directly or through their prey. Rivers have been polluted with pesticides, heavy metal and other chemical spills from the mining industry, fertilizers, untreated sewage, farm slurry and solid waste. Pollution results in the decline of fish biomass and reduces the food resources of the otters and accumulation of heavy metals and other pollutant in otter tissue.
Other threats that resulted in reducing the size and quality of otter habitats, reducing fish resources and disappearance of otters include: man-made changes of the riverbeds/watercourses, destruction of the riparian vegetation, overfishing, draining of wetlands and aquaculture activities. Climate change may become another important threat to otters in near future.

Conservation actions

Conservation actions

Eurasian otter is listed on Appendix I of the CITES, on Annex II of the Bern Convention and on Annex II and IV of the EU Habitats Directive. On a national level, it is categorized as strictly protected game species according the Law on Hunting of RM (2009) and it appears on the List of strictly protected wild species of the Law on Nature Protection of RM (2004). It is also an Emerald species in N. Macedonia.



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