Lutra lutra (Linnaeus 1758) Eurasian Otter
Hebrew name: לוטרה, lutra
Arabic name: Kalb el-mai
Global Threat: VU (A2cde) – Vulnerable
Regional Threat: CR (C1) – Critically Endangered
Distribution area: Streams flowing in the Jordan River basin and fishpond areas in the Jordan basin and the Harod Valley. A new survey (Dolev 2000) shows that Eurasian otters have also survived on the Carmel coast and swim in the sea between stream mouths (Boldo, pers. comm.).
Historic distribution: During the 1920s and 1930s Eurasian otters were found in the coastal streams – in Nahal Soreq (Wadi Rubin) and the Yarqon River (Ilani 1979). During the 1950s Eurasian otters could still be found on the Carmel coast, but this population slowly deteriorated due to swamp drainage, stream impoundment, hunting by fishermen and pollution (Ilani 1979). . During the 1980s isolated individuals still remained in the Zevulun Valley in the En Nimfit-En Afeq area (Macdonald et al. 1986).
Typical Habitat: Relatively unpolluted streams, lakes and secondarily – fishponds, populated by fish, amphibians and crustaceans for food, as well as cover during the day – thickets.
Threat and Disturbance Factors:
1. Drainage of streams, marshes and other wetlands; clearing vegetation from watersides and keeping them clear.
2. Industrial and agricultural pollution (poisons) of streams and freshwater bodies.
Population Size: Ilani (1979) estimated the population in Israel at 40-70 individuals during the 1970s. In the mid-1980s Macdonald et al. (1986) estimated the Israeli population at 100. The present population is probably similar to that in the 1980s.
Fluctuations in Population Size: The population decreased constantly from the 1940s to the 1970s. Since then it seems to have stabilized, despite increasing stream pollution.
Isolation between Subpopulations: The population in the Jordan River basin is probably isolated from the small coastal population.
Necessary Steps for Species Preservation:
1. Preserving permanent streams and other freshwater bodies that have dense vegetation growing along their sides, water unpolluted by industry and agriculture.
2. Fostering pisciculture, since fishponds have replaced natural habitats in many areas.
3. Constructing many wide road underpasses. Culverts should be designed with elevated ledges providing “dry” passage for wildlife.