The European otter Lutra lutra is part of the same family as badgers, weasels, stoats, pine marten and mink (Mustelidae). Otters breed throughout the year in England, once every two years, usually having between one to three cubs. They live near watercourses, rest in burrows, and can also be found resting above ground.
They are not migratory and, therefore, live in their territories all year round. Although they do not have a main predator, their main threats result from human activities. These activities include destruction of their habitats, pesticides polluting watercourses, and being run over by vehicles while crossing roads.
Otters are protected under UK and European Union (“EU”) laws. They are listed under:
- Wildlife and Countryside Act 1981 (as amended)
- The Conservation of Habitats and Species Regulations 2010
Under these legislations it is an offence to:
- Capturing, killing, injuring and disturbing;
- Damaging or destroying breeding/resting places;
- Obstructing access to resting places; and
- Possessing, advertising for sale, selling or transporting for sale, live or dead (part or derivative).
What We Offer
It is required by Local Planning Authorities (“LPA”) that every development proposal which has the potential to impact on local biodiversity needs to provide sufficient information to make informed decisions about how wildlife can be protected from injury or disturbance during development.
A Preliminary Ecological Appraisal (“PEA”), European Protected Species (“EPS”) licence, and further otter surveys may be required if this species is likely to be present and proposed works are likely to cause disturbance or harm to both animal and habitat. An appropriate mitigation strategy will also be required in order to proceed with the works.
Otter surveys can be conducted at any time of the year, however, spring is the optimum season due to evidence such as paw prints are easier to find, and it’s before both the vegetation establishes and water levels recede.
As otter activity can vary seasonally, several otter surveys may need to be conducted throughout the year to measure the impacts and assess the necessary mitigation measures. The number of otter surveys needed will vary according to the likeliness of impacts on otters from the proposed works and to the size of the proposed development.
Preliminary Ecological Appraisal (“PEA”)
Preliminary Ecological Appraisals consist of a site visit and a desktop assessment and is the first step to address the ecological aspects of a planning application by identifying habitats present on site that may support protected species. This initial site assessment will indicate if further otter surveys are necessary and recommend any appropriate mitigation and enhancements for the proposed development.
Habitat Suitability Assessment
Habitat suitability assessments help determine the likely presence of otters on a site from the habitat features recorded, and assess the need for further surveys.
Presence/absence surveys involve a systematic search for evidence of otter presence along a watercourse. We are thorough in our procedures when looking for signs of otters including spraints, holts, footprints, feeding remains, slides into water, and couches.
European Protected Species (“EPS”) Mitigation Licences
In order to undertake development works which have no means to avoid harming the otters or damaging or blocking access to their habitats, a European Protected Species (“EPS”) Mitigation licence will need to be granted by Natural England – Greenlight can help you obtain this.
Installation of Otter Fencing
Our skilled team have the ability to install otter-proof fences that are used to stop otters from going onto a development site.
Artificial Holt Creation
Constructing artificial holts can be a compensation measure to replace those that are expected to be damaged or removed.
Mitigation & Enhancements
When activities are likely to have an impact on otters, a mitigation strategy tailored to avoid the specific issues on the site should be put in place.
Mitigation and enhancement measures for otters include:
- Creating a protection zone around otter resting places and on each side of watercourses;
- Implanting a scheme to ensure the maintenance of an undisturbed and unpolluted watercourse;
- Installing otter fencing near new roads;
- Creating artificial otter holts or couches.
Greenlight Environmental Otter Surveys
At Greenlight, we understand the stress and time that is put into development projects, and we want to help any way we can. With our wide range of protected species and ecological surveys, we can relieve the environmental stresses for you, so you don’t have to worry.
Contact us today to discuss your project’s requirements.