Otter habitats on the coast are mainly in the sheltered coastal zone, on shore and intertidal zone. They are highly sensitive to oil pollution.
- River otter (Oter) Lutra lutra
Vulnerability towards oil.
Otters are semi-aquatic animals, and are dependent on access to fresh water to keep their coat intact. Suitable habitats in the shoreline zone that have nearby access to fresh water within reasonable distance may be expected to be lived in by otters.
- In coastal habitats, otters spend much of their time on and near the shoreline, hunting for fish near the shore.
- They are typically solitary, highly territorial animals so the number of individuals impacted will depend largely on the number of otters living on the impacted segments of shoreline.
- Recolonisation of suitable habitats by otters is thought to be beneficial to seabirds, as otters compete successfully with mink, and do not eat seabird eggs/chick to the same degree as mink.
- The animals are totally dependent on their fur for insulation and are therefore vulnerable to oil contamination of the fur, and ingestion by grooming.
- Otters are not known to avoid oil slicks.
- Vulnerable to oil lingering in the environment when the animals dig in gravel and sandy beaches, where they might encounter unweathered oil.
Protection/oil spill combat
- Barrier 3 and 4: Upstream protection of shoreline otter habitats
- Upstream chemical dispersal of oil slicks should be considered if mechanical containment and recovery is not possible.
- Barrier 5, shoreline cleanup should be prioritised on and surrounding the beaches that are known otter habitats. Cliffs can be cleaned by hosing the oil with water. Protect the surrounding areas from remobilised oil by fencing off with booms and using skimmers to collect oil.
- Dead otters should be collected for post-spill environmental surveys. Handle only with protective equipment and store according to procedure for collecting.
- If operator policy requires, oiled live otters should be collected by specialists in wildlife rehabilitation for treatment. Live otters may be aggressive when handled. Specialists and veterinaries trained in rehabilitation will decide whether to euthanise or rehabilitate the animal.