Otters: licences for surveys and research

You may need a licence to examine otter structures, use cameras near holts, or conduct research that might disturb otters.

Basic otter surveys don’t require a licence, as long as you plan your survey carefully to:

  • minimise disturbance to otters
  • minimise examinations of otter structures that could be in use

Otter surveys usually involve walking through potential otter habitat looking for places used for shelter or protection (e.g. holts, couches, lying-up sites) and other signs of otter activity (e.g. slides or sprainting sites).

Such surveys don’t require a licence as your actions wouldn’t constitute an offence against otters.

You may require a licence if you plan to:

  • conduct more invasive or frequent examinations of otter structures
  • fit infrared cameras or camera traps near to possible holts or places of shelter
  • photograph otters at or near the holt, or while rearing or caring for their young
  • carry out scientific or research work that might disturb otters in holts or other structures, or involve catching or marking otters

Licences are only granted where there’s no satisfactory alternative. This is one of the three strict European protected species licensing tests that must be met.

How to apply

To apply for a licence for survey, scientific or research work, email [email protected].

You should include:

  • your name, address and telephone number
  • full details of your project – covering what and who will be involved, and where and when
  • a completed licence application reference form

If this is your first licence application for this activity, we’ll need one reference from you. Your referee should be familiar with your work in this area and able to vouch for your competence.

Licence returns

A condition of any licence is that you must submit a licence return to us.

You should submit return information to us using our otter survey return form. Email us your completed form, giving your name and licence number in the subject line. Also tell us if it’s an annual or final return.

Licence changes and renewals

You should get in touch if you wish to amend a licence. But check your licence conditions first: you may be able to appoint agents and assistants without having to get them named on your licence.

Find out about adding persons to a licence.

You must also remember to contact us to renew your licence. Licences aren’t renewed automatically.


If you already have a licence number, include it in the subject line of your email, or have it to hand when you call.

Licensing Team
Telephone: 01463 725 364
Email: [email protected]

Find out more

Accompanying notes for survey and monitoring licences

Data Protection notice

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