Scottish Wildlife Series


At least half of Scotland’s otter population exists in coastal areas, mainly in the Hebrides, West Coast and Shetland.The Eurasian otter (Lutra lutra) has its principal British stronghold in Scotland, with an estimated 90% of the total British population resident here.  In view of the declines suffered by this species in many parts of Europe including much of Britain during the 1960s and 1970s, the Scottish population - which suffered only a relatively minor decline compared with England and Wales - is of international importance.

In view of this, developers and planners need to be aware that this species is more likely to be present on potential development sites in Scotland compared with elsewhere in Britain.  Development can take many forms ranging from large scale projects such as new transport infrastructure to individual house plots.  Even apparently benign proposals such as the development of an area for outdoor recreation can have an impact on otters if dogs are permitted on site.

This web-based publication provides an overview of the subject of otters and development.  It is intended as a basic introduction and not as a substitute for expert advice, which should always be sought from an experienced otter specialist early in the planning process if the presence of otters is likely to become an issue.  Otters receive a high level of protection under the EC Habitats Directive which is transposed into domestic legislation by the Conservation (Natural Habitats, &c.) Regulations 1994 (as amended).  Both developers and planners are therefore encouraged to think about possible impacts on otters as an integral part of the planning process.  In this way, potential conflicts can be promptly identified and resolved and costly delays can thereby be prevented.