North East Wales Coastal Otter Project

Around 1m in length, the otter is a very long sleek mammal with webbed feet and a strong tail, making it a fantastic swimmer. They use their great swimming skills to hunt prey underwater.

They prefer to live in healthy, clean water systems, such as rivers, ditches, streams and ponds, also venturing to estuaries and other coastal areas. These solitary animals sleep in holes along the river bed, called holts, and will scent mark their territory with distinctive sweet-smelling droppings known as spraint.

The European otter is recovering well and is now found in every county of Wales

Otters are protected under the European Habitats Directive and The Wildlife and Countryside Act as well as being a priority species in the UK and Denbighshire.


Formally widespread in the UK, otter populations had a dramatic decline between the 1950s and the 1970s. This decline is thought to be as a result of habitat loss, heavy pesticide use and pollution. However in the last 20 years or so otters have made a dramatic come-back and have now been recorded in all counties of Wales.


We are involved in a North East Wales Coastal Otter Project followed on from a coastal otter survey carried out in 2004 on the Lleyn Peninsula. The project aims to get an understanding of how otters are using the coast. Spotting an otter in the wild is very difficult so the best way of finding an otter’s territory is by looking for the spraint.

As part of the project, dedicated volunteers have been carrying out surveys for these elusive mammals. The data collected will tell us how the animals are using coastal habitats. Further DNA and dietary analysis of the otter spraint through the Mammals in a Sustainable Environment project will tell us how closely related each otter is to one another, if they are male or female and how far that individual’s territory extends, as well as what they had for dinner!

Together, this information will help to draw a picture of the lives of otters on our coast.


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