The Eurasian Otter in Slovakia

 

The Eurasian otter (Lutra lutra) is a large vertebrate charismatic and flagship species for which there is a major concern in conservation biology. Over the past century, the otter underwent a significant decline, resulting in extinction or fragmentation in most of European populations (Mason and Macdonald, 1986). A thriving population survived in Eastern Europe and in the Balkans (Macdonald and Mason,1990; Chanin, 2003; Conroy and Chanin, 2000, 2002; Georgiev, 2005, Poledník et al., 2008). Its core areas of distribution generally coincide with areas of carp farms (Kranz, 2000). Currently the otter population is increasing in most European countries (Conroy and Chanin, 2002; Mason and Macdonald, 2004, Ruiz- Olmo et al., 2008) and this trend is particularly pronounced in Central Europe (Kranz, 2000).

In the past the otter was distributed over the most of the Slovak territory with the exception of the top parts of high mountains. Its occurrence was also indicated by local geographical names of streams (vydra = otter): Vydrovo – left side tributary of the Čierny Hron River, Vydričný (Vydrický) potok brook – right side tributary of the Teplá River, Vydranka; the names of villages: Vydrany (Dunajská Streda district), Vydrná (Považská Bystrica district), Vydrník (Poprad district), Vydrovo, part of the Čierny Balog village (Brezno district), Vydraň, part of Michalovce city (Michalovce district), or valleys: Vydrovská dolina, near the Čierny Balog village (e. g. Hell and Cimbal, 1978). The otter is still present in most of them (situated mostly in central and eastern Slovakia), for example in the Vydrovský potok brook in Vydrovská dolina valley, or in Vydričný potok brook (e. g. Urban et al., 2010a).

The otter is a fully protected species according the present Act No. 543/2002 on Nature and Landscape Protection and Environment Ministry Decree No. 24/2003, which implement EU Habitats and Birds Directives. According to the current Hunting law No 274/2009 and Agriculture Ministry Decree No. 344/2009 the otter is still a game species but fully protected as the hunting season is closed all year round. This species is protected in 91 Areas of European Interest (= Sites of European Importance) in both biogeographic regions in Slovakia (Alpine and Pannonian) (Figure 1,2). In the latest Red List of mammals of Slovakia the otter is listed as „Vulnerable“ (VU) (Žiak and Urban, 2001).

Special Areas of Conservation in Slovakia, where the Eurasian otter is the subject of conservation

Special Areas of Conservation in Slovakia, where the Eurasian otter is the subject of conservation

The country-wide mapping of the otter was not achieved in the Slovak Republic until 2007. The range of otter distribution was only determined in some regions or river basins. The first one-off otter mapping in Slovakia (in 275 quadrates, i.e. 64.1% from 429 DFS quadrates) was done in winter 2007/2008. The next mapping was carried out in winter 2008/2009 with aims: to gain objective information on otter distribution in some selected quadrates in which the mapping was not realized before, or in 1 quadrate (6780) with negative results during the first mapping. Results were obtained from 54 DFS quadrates (12.6% out of 429 quadrates) (Urban et al., 2010b). The third one-off otter mapping on the whole Slovak territory (in all 429 quadrates) was carried out from in summer and Autumn 2010.

There are two gaps in the mapping grid. In 2007/8, we were unable to map the upper streams of the Topľa, Ondava and Laborec rivers and in the middle part of the Váh, Nitra, Morava and Malý Dunaj river basins in the eastern part of the country due to financial and manpower constraints during the change in status of the State Nature Conservancy of the Slovak republic (SNC SR). In 2010, we did not map a western area (the Podunajská nížina lowland, and Trnavská pahorkatina Hills) because the environment here is so affected by the construction of water power plants, dams, water supply reservoirs, canalisation and other river reclamations, irrigation, pumping of ground water, and overall river basin management affecting water retention and acceleration of runoff which all mean otters are not present. There is also a small area in eastern Slovakia where this is true: the the urban and industrial complex of the city of Košice - otters are, however, present above and below this area on the river Hornád.

Reference otter range in Slovakia used for reporting

Reference otter range in Slovakia used for reporting