Protected species: otters

The otter receives the highest protection possible, as a European protected species – and its holts are protected too.

There is no change to the protection of European protected species as a result of EU Exit.

As a European protected species, the otter is fully protected under the Conservation (Natural Habitats, &c.) Regulations 1994 (as amended).

You can see our summary of offences in relation to this protected species below. For the definitive list of offences, you should consult the actual legislation.

Discover more about the otter and how it lives.

Offences: wild otter

It is an offence to deliberately or recklessly:

  • capture, injure or kill an otter
  • harass an otter or group of otters
  • disturb an otter in a holt or any other structure or place it uses for shelter or protection
  • disturb an otter while it is rearing or otherwise caring for its young
  • obstruct access to a holt or other structure or place otters use for shelter or protection, or otherwise deny the animal use of that place
  • disturb an otter in a manner or in circumstances likely to significantly affect the local distribution or abundance of the species
  • disturb an otter in a manner or in circumstances likely to impair its ability to survive, breed or reproduce, or rear or otherwise care for its young

It is also an offence to:

  • damage or destroy a breeding site or resting place of such an animal (whether or not deliberately or recklessly)
  • keep, transport, sell or exchange, or offer for sale or exchange any wild otter (or any part or derivative of one) obtained after 10 June 1994

Otter shelters are legally protected whether or not an otter is present.


Licensing allows named individuals to carry out actions that could otherwise constitute an offence. If you’re planning any activities that could affect otters or the places they use, you must make sure you stay within the law.

Find out about otters and licensing.

Learn more about licensing.

Find out more

Protected species known to occur naturally in Scotland and their protection

Protected Species Advice for Developers: Otter


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

01463 725364

[email protected]

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