Eurasian Otter (Lutra lutra)
The Management Plan for the Eurasian Otter (Lutra lutra) in the Czech Republic is a framework whose purpose is to ensure a conceptional, long-term attitude towards protection of the species. It is a set of protective, management, legislative and educational measures ensuring the management of this species. The time-frame of efficiency of the Management Plan is 10 years, but individual measures will be checked and evaluated during its course based on set criteria: should those measures not be effective enough, they will be revised.
The Eurasian Otter is a threatened species, its abundance, however, has been increasing during the last years. In the past, the species was widespread in the entire territory of the Czech Republic. As a result of hunting for fur, poaching, decreasing water quality and food availability in running waters, there was a strong decrease in abundance in the 20th century, bringing the species to the verge of extinction. Luckily, unlike in many other European countries, its extinction in the Czech Republic never did happen. An increase in abundance of the Eurasian Otter has been recorded since the end of the 1980s, and it still continues. Nevertheless, the Eurasian Otter still does not occur in the whole territory of our country. With an increasing abundance, doubts about the sense of otter protection and about the elaboration of a Management Plan for the species are emerging. Although the population of Eurasian Otters in the Czech Republic seems to be stable, the species is still very vulnerable, not only due to an increasing traffic, but also due to a decrease of suitable environments or to poaching. Should basic conservation measures not be ensured for the Eurasian Otter, the species can arrive at the verge of extinction soon again. The aim of the otter preservation, however, is not just an effort to blindly protect that species while harming others. The main objective is to find the best solution of the conflict between otters and fishfarming in our waters. This is the only way for permanent survival of Eurasian Otters. This Management Plan has been prepared entirely in the framework of such an objective.
The whole concept of the Management Plan for the Eurasian Otter arises from the following main long-term objective:
To ensure no deterioration regarding current population size and range of the Eurasian Otter in the Czech Republic occurs. For the purpose of this management Plan, current Eurasian Otter´s range in the CR is considered to be as recorded by a country-wide monitoring in 2006 and monitoring of marginal areas of occurrence in 2008, a decrease of the Eurasian Otter´s range is considered to be a decrease in permanently occupied quadrates or a decrease in temporarily occupied quadrates by more than 20%.
This long-term objective should be reached by the following main areas of measures:
- education and enlightenment of selected groups, mainly fishermen, and by that improvinf their relationship to otters
- minimizing the negative effects of traffic on otter populations
- research aimed at gaining new knowledge in biology and ecology of the species
- economical tools and informing about them
Evaluation of fullfilling the goals and of the effectiveness of proposed measures will be ensured by regular monitoring.
Taking into account the already mentioned, currently most significant factors threatening otter populations in our country (poaching, road kills), the main pilars of this Management Plan are education of target groups (especially fishermen, road administration and general public) and minimalization of the negative effects of traffic. A goal-oriented systematic education should help improve the attitude of fishing (and other) public to the otter, which is considered the key step leading towards the fulfillment of the main objectives of this Management Plan. The minimalization of negative effects of traffic should be reached by care for otter biotopes, mostly by identification of critical spots and subsequently by making bridges and roads safe for the animals to pass through.
Another measure leading directly to the fulfillment of the long-term objectives is nursing and releasing of found individuals back into the wild. The following set of measures will then lead to the fulfillment of the long-term objectives indirectly:
- Research (feeding ecology, secondary damage on fish stocks, testing precautionary measures for fishermen, genetic variability and population structure, creating population models, collection and analyses of dead animals).
- Economic and technical tools (proposal for optimizing the system of solutions for the collision of economic interests of fisheries and the Eurasian Otter, proposal for testing new precautionary measures).
- Monitoring (regular country-wide mapping of distribution and mapping of marginal areas of occurrence, population number estimates in selected areas).
The results of regular monitoring will also allow to evaluate the effectiveness of the individual measures and the overall fulfillment of the main goals of this Management Plan.