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The availability of freshwater has been suggested to strongly influence the distribution of coastal otters Lutra lutra The test this hypothesis, a study was undertaken on the relationships between otter distribution and freshwater availability in a coast where freshwater is a very scarce resource during the summer In this area otters occur mostly in a few small coastal streams but feed largely in the sea Twentynine streams were surveyed in the summer of 1990, and the presence/absence of otter signs was related to nine habitat variables Freshwater availability was found to be the most important factor influencing the occurrence of otters in summer It is suggested that otters favour large streams with good vegetation cover, for these are the most likely to maintain frestwater during the dry periods The distribution of otter signs m streams was also analysed, and it was found that signs tend to concentrate particularly near the mouth of the streams This habitat analysis has some conservation implications, indicating that the decrease of freshwater availability or quality of streams can make these unsuitable for otters, severely decreasing the areas suitable for the species in the southwest coast of Portugal