The European, or Eurasian, Otter population in France was at an all-time low in the 1970s, down to 1,500 otters in the French wild, where once 50,000 had dwelt. They had once covered Africa, Asia, and Europe, but even now, the otters are extinct from some of these continents. Water pollution and demand for their luxurious coats led to the diminished population through most of the twentieth century. The 1980s and 1990s brought the first legal protection of the species, the banning of jaw traps, and increased water quality. France continues to work to reintroduce animals to the wide regions they once roamed, although they have so far been unsuccessful. In 2004, the European Otter's conservation status was lowered from vulnerable to near threatened, and, even since, their numbers have continued to rise.
The European Otter is an aquatic mammal with a current range from Russia to Europe, and including parts of the Middle East. They eat a variety of foods depending on availability, including fish, birds, bugs, and small mammals. They live in both salt and fresh water, requiring access to each. Interestingly, it is believed that they have adapted to smell underwater. They are relatively territorial and solitary creatures, desiring an area of approximately eleven miles for themselves, allowing mild overlapping only with members of the opposiste sex. Despite their isolation, they have a system of communication, able to make more than a dozen basic calls to one another.
Since their inclusion on many conservation lists, their numbers have increased. Hunting is illegal in many areas and tunnels have even been built in some countries to allow the otters safe passage under roads. Diverting natural water sources into canals and dams still causes the otters major turmoil, as do pollutants, both new and accumulated. A European Breeding Programme has been established to elevate European Otter populations, but it is a controversial subject as to whether captive-bred otters can be successfully introduced into the wild.
via The Monga Bay