Otter Surveys and Mitigation

Otters are commonly associated with riparian habitats but in fact can utilise most types of waterbody, including estuaries, canals, lakes, ponds and reservoirs, and even small streams and dry ditches are occasionally used as dispersal corridors. They are present in many urban areas. During the second half of the 20th century their distribution was largely restricted to Ireland and Scotland, with lower densities in Wales and south-west England, and a very sparse population in the rest of England. In recent years their distribution has slowly extended southwards but population density is still low in Kent and Sussex.

Otters are solitary, territorial and active all year round. They are mainly nocturnal, but diurnal in coastal areas, and their diet consists primarily of fish. Their territorial ranges often cover long distances, around 20km of linear waterway for females and up to 50km for males, though they often make use of adjacent habitats. The otter’s habitat requirements include access to foraging resources throughout the year, and a range of suitable resting sites –holts, couches and lying-up sites – such as ledges, boulders and root cavities.

Summary of Legal Protection

Otters are fully protected under the Wildlife and Countryside Act 1981 (as amended) and Conservation of Habitats and Species Regulations 2010 (as amended) and are a European Protected Species. Together the legislation makes it an offence to:

  • Deliberately kill, injure or capture an otter
  • Destroy, damage or obstruct an otter resting place or breeding site, intentionally or recklessly
  • Intentionally or recklessly disturb an otter while it is occupying a structure or place of shelter or protection

Surveys, Impact and Mitigation

Our professional ecologists can help ensure your project is designed and implemented in compliance with the legal protections for otters, improving the chances of successfully gaining planning permission while minimising the scope for impacts on this characterful species. Our survey services include:

  • Habitat suitability assessments
  • Field sign surveys – searching for signs of otter presence, such as spraints, tracks, feeding remains, slides, holts and couches
  • Camera-trap monitoring (under licence) of rest sites can be arranged
  • Post-construction monitoring

Following the completion of appropriately designed surveys, we carry out impact assessments and advise on design alterations to retain important features – buffered waterways with sufficient foraging resources and resting sites – integrated within the site, while minimising the scope for disturbance and road casualties. Alternatively we can advise on mitigation, compensation and enhancement measures to ensure there are no long term impacts on species survival, sometimes involving the creation of new habitats. Once planning permission has been granted, we can also assist with gaining the necessary licence permissions from Natural England.

Our ecology team operates throughout the UK, although our core area includes Kent, Sussex, Surrey, Hampshire, Wiltshire, Berkshire, Gloucestershire, Worcestershire, Warwickshire, Oxfordshire, Buckinghamshire, Northamptonshire, Bedfordshire, Hertfordshire, Cambridgeshire, Norfolk, Suffolk, Essex and London.

Ecological Surveys

Impact Assessments

Environmental Planning


Biodiversity Net Gain