Wildlife of the Lakes: Otter

10 January 2017

One of the cutest animals in the Lakes, the otter is a highlight of the Cumbrian landscape and a remarkable sight on your adventures through the county. These mammals are sublimely adapted to the water and can be seen in many rivers and lakes.

What makes this animal so incredible and where are you most likely to spot one?

Life Cycle of an Otter

The period for an otter gestate can take anything from 60 to 90 days, a relatively short gestation period. Newborns are cared for by the whole family; mother, father, and even older siblings. Sexual maturity is reached at around two years for females and around three for males.

Otters live in dens which are known as a holt or couch. These are often built under tree roots, or further north amidst a rocky cairn (more common in Scotland). They line these homes with grass and other such plant life to insulate the structure and keep their pups warm. There they stay for up to a month, whilst living with their family for up to a year. Often seen playing with their pups in the water, this has led to otters being known for having a playful nature which is a delight to watch.


The male of the species is known as a dog or boar, whilst the female is a sow and their children are pups. All together they are known as a bevy, lodge, romp, or family of otters. If they are in the water, then they may also be called a raft of otters.

Typically, otters have a lifespan of around sixteen years.


Long, slim, bodies are the characteristics of this water mammal. They have incredible webbed feet, which they use to swim and create their lodges. Incredibly they can also hold their breaths underwater for prolonged periods of time. The many different species of otters range in size from less than one metre to almost metres – with the sea and giant otter being the largest of the species.


Otter underfur is soft and insulated, with an outer layer of hair; between the two air is trapped to allow the otter to remain dry, warm, and even adds to their buoyancy in water.

European Otters

The European otter is the most prevalent otter in the species. Spanning across Europe, across Asia and has even been seen in North Africa. Up until the 1950s they were common throughout the UK, but increased use of pesticides draining into their water habitats saw worrying decreases in their population. Populations reached record lows, but conservation efforts since then have meant that otters again inhabited the areas of the UK that they were once abundant in.

We’d love to welcome you to one of our fantastic properties – they make a great base camp for any animal spotting-adventure! Having been awarded a 5-Star Gold from Visit England, you needn’t just listen to us! For more information, or to settle any queries, please contact us on 01524 276500.

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