The otter, Lutra lutra, is protected under the Conservation of Habitats and Species Regulations 2017, known as the Habitats Regulations. This is because otters have declined throughout Europe in recent decades. This information is focused on otter licensing in Wales and is not a comprehensive review of the ecology or the law relating to otters.

Otters can be affected by a range of activities including scrub clearance, river management, footpath creation, road schemes, housing developments or woodland operations.


Under the Habitats Regulations, it is an offence if you:

  • Deliberately capture, injure or kill any wild animal of an EPS
  • Deliberately disturb wild animals of any such species
  • Damage or destroy a breeding site or resting place of such an animal

Disturbance includes, but is not limited to, any disturbance which is likely:

  • to impair their ability –
    • To survive, to breed or reproduce, or to rear or nurture their young, or
    • In the case of animals of a hibernating or migratory species, to hibernate or migrate; or
  • To affect significantly the local distribution or abundance of the species to which they belong

Defra and the Welsh Government will publish a joint guidance document on the interpretation of the offences relating to disturbance, damage and destruction of breeding sites and resting places.

It is against the law to possess, transport, sell or exchange live or dead specimens of a European or a UK protected species.

It is not necessary to obtain a licence to collect a dead otter (eg a road casualty) for the purpose of submitting it for post mortem as part of the Cardiff University Otter Project.


Natural Resources Wales issues licences under Regulation 55 of the Habitats Regulations to allow you to work within the law. We issue them for specific purposes stated in the Regulations, if the following three tests are met:

  • The purpose of the work meets one of those listed in the Habitats Regulations
  • That there is no satisfactory alternative
  • That the action authorised will not be detrimental to the maintenance of the population of the species concerned at a favourable conservation status in their natural range

Licensing purposes

The Habitats Regulations permits licences to be issued for a specific set of purposes including:

  • Include preserving public health or public safety or other imperative reasons of over-riding public interest including those of a social or economic nature and beneficial consequences of primary importance for the environment
  • Scientific and educational purposes
  • Ringing or marking
  • Conserving wild animals

Scientific or Educational

You will need a licence to take or disturb an otter, or damage or obstruct access to a breeding or resting place, in order to carry out any kind of research or detailed survey. We can also issue licences for more invasive survey methods including marking animals or fitting radio tracking collars.

When you can apply for a licence

Find out who can apply for a protected species licence

Method statement

If you are carrying out any development work, you will need to complete a method statement. The method statement forms part of your licence application:

Development licence method statement

Ecological compliance

You may be asked to submit an ecological compliance audit form if you're proposing a large development scheme, or a scheme that has a higher risk for protected species. These requirements will be a condition of your licence.

Apply for a protected species licence

If you cannot avoid disturbing protected species, or damaging their breeding sites and resting places, you can apply for a licence for a range of different activities:

Contact us

You can contact us for help at any time before or during your licence application.

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