Shropshire Wildlife Trust's Otter Project uses camera traps to search for otters on the River Severn, and the Canal & River Trust is seeking volunteers to help survey otters on the waterways of Birmingham. The cubs remain with their parents for just over a year before becoming independent. This is the smallest otter species being only about 11 lbs. European otter coats are waterproof and 200 times denser than human hair, so they are well insulated from the cold. Because otters eat mainly fish, you’ll generally find them in areas where there are plenty of this food source. River otters are nocturnal and they come out in at night in the summer and spring seasons. 'This dire situation worsened through the 60s, with otters simply disappearing across tranches of lowland England, including here in East Anglia.'. They are incredibly elusive and difficult to watch but are so graceful and charming that it is worth the effort. Â© Dave Goodman/ Shutterstock.com. David says, 'We've been seeing more otters run down on roads across the country, which is an unfortunate result of their expansion. In fact, ecologists rely on animal signs to help them understand the numbers, behaviours and movements of … Â© FLPA/ Alamy Stock Photo. We are open!Â Book your free ticket in advance. They communicate via whistles, twittering noises and spitting sounds, which can be heard at night when it is quiet and still. Otters are generally nocturnal, and the best time to see them is at dawn or dusk. On banksides Signs of the animals are being recorded elsewhere, including in central Sheffield. While we might think of the otter as a British species, Eurasian otters live across Europe and Asia, as well as parts of Africa and as far as South Korea! This is a really positive conservation outcome. 'The reason Sheffield is here is because its many waterways, rivers and trees for charcoal were the perfect environment for making steel. Three otters were reintroduced to the River Itchen in 1994. However, it often leaves tell tale signs behind. Populations are usually estimated by monitoring droppings and footprints. River Otters May Be Marine Animals but They Are Also Night Owls. 'Â, Otter spraint is a clear sign that the carnivore is in the area. It's not just in Essex and Dorset that wildlife groups are surveying otters in urban areas. YouTube clip courtesy of the National Trust. The otter’s droppings are known as spraint and otters use them to mark their territories How to recognise In the UK otters can only really be confused with the introduced American mink, but otters are much larger (95-130cm in length, including tail), with a distinctive white throat. Otters are part of the “mustelid” family, which also includes stoats, weasels and badgers. Otters are aquatic, nocturnal animals about the size of a cat. He says, 'I worked on a project called Nature Counts in Sheffield in 2016. The sea otter is only found in salt water, where it prefers to eat invertebrates such as shellfish. These are 2 – 7cm long, will contain fish bones and scales, be tarry and black but turn grey when old, and naturally, will smell very strongly of fish! They were rewarded by a sighting of the elusive mammal near Birmingham's Mailbox shopping centre in November 2019. The industry built up along the rivers, which powered water wheels and acted as sewers to wash away pollutants. Only enter the water if it’s safe to do so Understanding and protecting life on our planet is the greatest scientific challenge of our age. As such physical signs of otters are often used to indicate their presence in an area as opposed to visual sightings. We must act on scientific evidence, we must act together, and we must act now. On gravel banks or sand and muddy areas They will often travel a long way overland, from one river system to another, in search of food. A 400-acre farmland, Gilfach Farm is a nature reserve in the heart of … Reports now state that otters inhabit every county in the UK – great news for the otter! These were very small numbers: perhaps 200 individuals UK-wide in the first ten years of the Otter Trust. They sometimes live along the coast, but they still require fresh water nearby. But the situation has improved, says Paul: 'Since the 1990s people have been creating fish passes around weirs to allow the movement of fish. You can stand on one bank and watch otters 30 feet [nine metres] away. Anal jelly: This is a clear jelly-like substance that smells the same as spraint. The otter is a UK Priority Species. Otters came close to extinction in the UK and much of Europe. Â© FLPA/ Alamy Stock Photo. We managed to record over 60 clips of otters in the city centre. Chris Packham and Megan McCubbin's new bookÂ explores the wonder and the solace of nature, and the ways in which we can connect with it - and protect it. Despite being strong swimmers, otters are unable to hold their breath underwater for long periods and usually dive for no more than 30 seconds at a time. The animals and plants that make our island unique are facing a fight to survive.Â Hedgehog habitats are disappearing, porpoises are choking on plastic and ancient woodlands are being paved over.Â. Otters are carnivorous mammals with thick fur and webbed feet. Otters have an acute sense of smell, hearing and eyesight. However, in areas of good habitat such as the Scottish Isles, they can be seen during the day. ‘Holts’ are used for shelter and breeding and may take the form of a burrow, natural hole, cave or other structure (including man-made ones). So far as otters are concerned organisations such as the Environment Agency, particularly its branch that was previously known as the National Rivers Authority and the Vincent Wildlife Trust Otter Haven Project have made good progress. Shropshire Wildlife Trust's Otter Project. In freshwater they feed on trout and salmon. The average otter is 1–1.3 metres in length, and weighs up to 9kg. Below is a selection of photographs of spraints, tracks and other otter signs. The Eurasian otter (Lutra lutra) is a large member of the weasel family that can reach nearly a metre in length and weigh up to 12 kilograms. If otters fascinate you, below are some interesting otter facts. Otters are one of the UK’s best conservation success stories of recent years. Eurasian otters are indigenous to the UK and can be found in either fresh or salt water, although it’s usually known as the river otter for the obvious reason. Beware of loose banks and slip hazards It is also known as the European otter and common otter. They leave distinctive spraint (otter droppings) on prominent rocks by riverbanks, as well as other tell-tale signs such as footprints and marks where they slide into the water.'. Our future depends on nature, but we are not doing enough to protect our life support system.Â Â, British wildlife is under threat. These inner-city mammals even have their own Twitter account @WCMOtters. The best places to find otters and their signs are: Under and near bridges But more than that, the presence of this top predator proves the water is clean. Twenty-five years ago, The English otter population was on the brink of extinction after half a century of agricultural chemicals leaching into the rivers and polluting the food chain. The Eurasian otter: 1. has the widest geographical range of all otter species 2. is the only otter that is native to the UK 3. can be found in both freshwaters and coastal habitats 4. is solitary, elusive and predominantly nocturnal 5. feeds predominantly on fish, but takes a wide diversity of other prey eg crayfish, anurans (frogs and toads), birds, invertebrates and small mammals 6. has litters of 1-3 cubs, born at any time of year. Despite the challenges that come with the territory, growing otter populations in cities are a good sign for ecosystems and human inhabitants alike. However, in This is essential to ensure that the otters reduce predation of stillwater lakes and, of course, so that anglers are able to enjoy their historic and popular pastime and live in harmony with the beautiful otter. But there's another top predator back in town: the Eurasian otter. Size. Shy and mainly nocturnal, though coastal otters can be seen during the day. The Eurasian otter (Lutra lutra), also known as the European otter, Eurasian river otter, common otter, and Old World otter, is a semiaquatic mammal native to Eurasia.The most widely distributed member of the otter subfamily (Lutrinae) of the weasel family (Mustelidae), it is found in the waterways and coasts of Europe, many parts of Asia, and parts of northern Africa. This is particularly noticeable during spring, summer and autumn. These otters can walk, slide, bound and even run on land. They will often travel a long way overland, from one river system to another, in search of food. In certain parts of the country road deaths are considerably high – this is something we at the UK Wild Otter Trust want to address by helping with under-road tunnels to help reduce the number of road casualties. Their diet in the wild is crustaceans, mollusks, and small fish. In most areas they are active during the day, not just here at Minsmere - there were very tame ones on the river in Thetford last winter for example, and they are often seen by day at RSPB Strumpshaw Fen and RSPB Leighton Moss as well. ', An otter recorded by a camera trap in central Sheffield Â© Sheffield and Rotherham Wildlife Trust. Their gestation period is 9 weeks and they can breed at any time of the year, although this usually occurs in spring. Otters are generally associated with large rivers, but they will use quiet outflow points and the canal network. They do live in large family groups. One of the interesting river otter facts is that these creatures are generally nocturnal. ', The construction of weirs along the River Don in the eighteenth century prevented the movement of fish up and down the river, causing declines in otter populations Â© Han Dinkelberg (CC BY 2.0) via Flickr. These are the things that systematic surveys can uncover - things changing in the environment which we need to look at.'. Giant otters are strictly diurnal. Cubs will stay with and remain dependent upon their parents for over a year. They also love to play. I even had a contact who reported otters taking carp from his garden pond! Otters are now very common along the coast of Norway and in Northern Britain, especially Shetland where 12% of the UK breeding population exist. They are strong, agile swimmers and catch fish by chasing them underwater. In marshes or reed beds 'As a result of the releases and natural recolonisation, UK otter populations recovered throughout the 1990s and we now have otters living in every county.'. Attempts have been made to reintroduce otters to their former haunts by reintroducing captive bred and rehabilitated animals, with some attempts proving very successful. Darren says that the releases, while small, played their part in the recovery of otters in east England. Paul explains that the work in Sheffield has brought about change in the city and made people care about conservation like never before. They come in many sizes. 'We've proved that otters are using the river. 'From this research we knew we had at least three otters in our patch and possibly up to seven, with at least one male and one female. In recent years the otter has encountered new and varied threats, including habitat destruction (road building, new urban development), persecution by fishery owners and gamekeepers (as they are seen as a threat to fish and game birds – which is untrue), and if near the sea, injury and capture in fishing nets. 'Good cities can support a huge amount of biodiversity, including a surprising number of mammals at the top of the food chain. A male otter needs a stretch of territory about 13 kilometres long, although it depends on the width of the waterway and the abundance of food available. It is the only wild otter species found in the UK. Otters . The Wildlife Countryside Act (1981) banned their persecution, efforts were made to improve the water quality of rivers and a programme of otter releases built numbers back up. Their diet consists of roughly 80% fish, but they will prey upon birds, mammals and frogs if fish are in short supply. The elusive otter is one of our top predators, feeding mainly on fish (particularly eels and salmonids), waterbirds, amphibians and crustaceans. Also found along the west coast of Scotland. ', Otters are regularly seen on the river in Colchester in Essex Â© Monika (CC BY-SA 2.0) via Flickr, Darren continues, 'There have been other sightings in urban Essex at Chelmsford city. When it comes to large mammals living in the heart of UK cities, you might think the red fox is in a league of its own. This enables them to breed all year round, as is shown with the surprising set of wild otter cubs arriving at Slimbridge in December 2018. ', An otter at an outflow tunnel on the River Thet in Thetford town centre Â© David Tipling Photo Library/ Alamy Stock Photo, But this new city lifestyle also brings downsides and new threats. Paul explains that the watercourses that otters call home were vital resources in the history of the city. River Otters May Be Marine Animals but They Are Also Night Owls. Housing for an Asian small-clawed otter is not for everyone. This can include rivers, canals, lakes and wetland areas. Privacy notice. To Benefit Otters Otters in the UK and Sussex The European otter (Lutra lutra) is a protected species in the UK following a dramatic crash in their numbers in the 1960s. Tracks/footprints: Otter prints can be found at the edge of river banks, in gravel, sand, and mud, and on tarmac if they have just left the river. This is such a good indicator of healthy cities and towns, for wildlife and for people. They will start to leave at 14 to 15 months old, and begin breeding at between 17 and 20 months old. Otters have recovered in many areas but are still struggling to return to Sussex. 'The presence of otters is a sign of a restored abundance of fish. – but our river systems still require extensive habitat management to restore them to a healthy level that can sustain fish stocks and wildlife. Otters raise their young in underground dens known as holts, often with hidden underwater entrances on riverbanks well covered by vegetation. However, in areas of good habitat such as the Scottish Isles, they can be seen during the day. Also found along the west coast of Scotland. And otters are settling into city living. It hasn't been plain sailing for otters in the UK in the last few decades. The best signs are of course tracks, but other signs are listed below. Spot an otter. PaulÂ Richards, Ecological Monitoring OfficerÂ at Sheffield and RotherhamÂ WildlifeÂ Trust, recalls his astonishment at discovering that otters are thriving at heavily industrialised sites along the River Don. 'We were in one of the most urban areas you can imagine. 'We put camera traps at strategic points and got regular footage of otters. They are also very curious and like to investigate new things.Otters spend a good part of their day grooming themselves. They nearly became extinct in some areas between the 1950s and 1970s, but thanks to efforts to improve water quality and increased protection they can now be found across the UK, including several of our special places. They are friendly and playful which is why they’re one of the well-loved animals in the world. ', ... or that it helped you learn something new. It was very special. Otters are very social creatures. No fish, no otters. However, there are locations where they are encountered during the day and these sites are often in urban environments where individual otters have become habituated to people. Do not drink the water Jessica has been lucky enough to observe otters at a river by her home in Dorset, using camera traps to record their behaviour. Despite the mounting pressures, hope is not lost. As well as fish, otters sometimes consume crustaceans (such as crayfish and crabs), amphibians and even insects, waterbirds and small mammals. The return of otters to the UK. Otters are nocturnal and have a territory of up to 40km (25 miles). The species has thrived in the area ever since, and otters are regularly spotted near the City Mill in the centre of Winchester, Hampshire. The weirs and pollutants prevented the movement of fish and killed them off. 'In the last three years, people have regularly reported otters fishing and swimming in the River Colne right in Colchester town centre, especially at Castle Park - a popular public area with a heavily managed section of river. He explains, 'We often find otters in old industrial parts of towns. ', Salmon of Steel by Jason Heppenstall celebrates the return of salmon to the River Don after over 200 years Â© Tim Dennell (CC BY-NC 2.0) via Flickr. If you've got roads crossing rivers, then there's potential for otters to get hit by cars. Shooting advice . Volunteers can help monitor otter populations for wildlife charities. Darren says, 'We are starting to find small pieces of plastic in spraints which is worrying. Shropshire Wildlife Trust's Otter Project. Although most of their hunting behaviour happens between dusk and dawn, they can be seen foraging in the daytime and seem less worried about humans. Dr Jessica Wardlaw, Interim Citizen Science Manager at the Museum, explains that otters are generally shy creatures. The oldest recorded otter reached around 12 years of age, but this is exceptional. But this isn't by chance: often the features that gave rise to some of Britain's industrial metropolises also make excellent habitats. Unfortunately, even though the species has made a distinct comeback and is now found often in our rivers, wild otters rarely live beyond 4 years of age. An otter (Lutra lutra) at a river in Thetford town centre, Norfolk, UK. At river junctions or intersections. Excellent and lithe swimmers, the young are in the water by 10 weeks of age. Daily Life: otters are mainly nocturnal and hunt in open, marshy places, rivers, lakes, seashores and estuaries. As populations have steadily recovered, otters have been reported in more urban locations across Britain, from smaller cities such as Andover, Inverness and Exeter, to huge urban centres like Edinburgh, Manchester, Birmingham and London. Clawless otters are mainly nocturnal, though some individuals may be active during the day in remote areas that are free of human disturbance. Spraints: In other words, otter droppings. Now that the tide is turning for otters, they are surfacing in some unexpected places, including large urban centres. There's now a nature reserve called Salmon Pastures right in the city centre, and in the last two years we've recorded salmon again in the heart of Sheffield. They will often travel a long way overland, from one river system to another, in search of food. The situation was particularly serious in southern and central England, with otters vanishing from these areas completely, becoming locally extinct. He says, 'It appears more otters are moving into urban areas of Dorset to take advantage of benefits such as warmer temperatures and better-stocked rivers. Current threats to British otters. River otter often play games and they chase one another in a game. For many, the Museum is a place that inspires learning, gives purpose and provides hope. And you can help.Â Â, We are a charity and we rely on your support. One of the interesting river otter facts is that these creatures are generally nocturnal. However, the majority of the UK's otters are now found on our wilder coasts. North American otters are capable to travel at a speed of 42 km (26 miles) per day. There is evidence that in certain parts of the UK the otter is extending its range and may be increasing locally. Get tips on urban birdwatching and discover what you could see - including birds of prey and parakeets. There are steelworks, factories, trains going past, and yet we were getting footage of otters. Otters are active throughout the year. They are incredibly elusive and difficult to watch but are so graceful and charming that it is worth the effort. Copyright © 2019 Uk Wild Otter Trust | Designed by Kinlake, Otter factfile: What they’re like, threats, and how to find them, What to do if you find a live otter or cub. Otters are aquatic (water-based) relatives of badgers and weasels. 1. They are not known to migrate each year. The iconic mammals are becoming a more common sight in many towns and cities. Otters are not nocturnal animals, although they usually were when populations were very low. Nowadays 15 in a year is standard. 'They're being seen more frequently in Essex towns. Beware of ticks (which can carry Lyme disease) and consult your doctor should you feel unwell, Charity Registration Number - Daily Life: otters are mainly nocturnal and hunt in open, marshy places, rivers, lakes, seashores and estuaries. Otters are often elusive, with large ranges and nocturnal behaviour making spotting them a rare and wonderful experience. Volunteers can help monitor otter populations for wildlife charities. They are expert swimmers and spend much of their time hunting for prey in water, where they catch mainly fish and invertebrates. The European otter has been here for millions of years; it is a member of the Mustelid family, which also includes the badger, mink, weasels, stoats, martens and polecats, and is the only truly semi-aquatic member of the weasel family. In the UK, otters almost became extinct in the fifties and sixties because of rivers contaminated with chemical residues. A Eurasian otter feeding on a common roach caught in a river in Thetford. Â© Jeremy Halls (CC BY-SA 2.0) via Flickr. 'Otters started to be released in East Anglia in 1983, and then in other parts of the country such as Dorset. A recent report by Cardiff University (2013) noted that pesticides and pollutants may also be affecting the otter’s reproductive system. They also eat crustaceans, frogs and even small water birds. The largest otter is the giant otter… Ken Hutchinson, Otter Co-ordinator for Dorset Mammal Group, estimates that around three quarters of otters in Dorset access a town or village as part of their territory. 3. Very few people even knew they were there. ', As otters move to urban environments they are being killed on roads in greater numbers. Again, not a particularly great river for otters you might think - it's canalised with steep-sided artificial banks - and yet they are spotted swimming there frequently.'. Otters that live in freshwater habitats are largely nocturnal and occupy very large home ranges (around 32km for males and 20km for females). It's testament to the work people have done over the years and it shows that the entire ecosystem is returning to something that's functioning.'. There is a picture below to help you recognise this sign. When out looking for otters, please follow to this safety advice: Try to work in pairs But the signs that animals frequent an area can be a good start to discovering all kinds of species, from rare otters to common rabbits. Now when developments and other disturbing activities are planned, the otters have to be taken into account. We had volunteers scouring the riverbanks and we recorded over 120 signs of otters - spraints, footprints, slide marks and half-eaten fish. No matter the size, every gift to the Museum is critical to our 300 scientists' work in understanding and protecting the natural world.Â Â. Habitat: Otters can be found beside rivers, streams and lakes, mostly in north and west England and Wales. - Say hello to Britain’s wildlife (Picture: Getty Images/iStockphoto)Is being cooped up indoors during lockdown making you feel like you need to get in River otters may be either diurnal or nocturnal; most are generally more active at night. An otters diet mainly consists of fish, however, it can also include birds, insects, frogs, crustaceans and small mammals. More recently, signs of otters along the Birmingham canal network prompted the local Wildlife Trust to install motion sensor wildlife cameras. This does depend on the level of human interference, but even this seems to be more widely tolerated by otters nowadays.'. Eurasian otters will generally live anywhere that has a source of unpolluted fresh water with a sufficient food supply. 'We know that salmon were abundant in the Don until the eighteenth century because apprentices working near the river had a clause in their contracts that stated they couldn't be fed salmon more than three times a week! Wildlife can sometimes be hard to spot, especially if it is nocturnal. 'The local community have shown such a real interest in the project: over 400 people came when we held an event to present the results. Being a semi-aquatic and nocturnal creature does, though, make this furtive animal difficult to spot. These environments may not always be ideal, but any city or town with a river will have fish for otters to eat. She says, 'You are more likely to see evidence of otters than otters themselves. Be prepared to change focal length quickly – an 80-400mm zoom is ideal. Anal discharge: You may find anal discharges on rocks and boulders. ', This trend is also recorded in Essex. It's not just foxes, rats and pigeons in the concrete jungle. Changes in traditional farming methods also play a part in threatening the otter via the increasing use of pesticides. David from PTES says that this picture is representative of urban conservation across the whole country. Monday - Sunday10.00-17.50 (last entry 17.00), © The Trustees of The Natural History Museum, London, sighting of the elusive mammal near Birmingham's Mailbox shopping centre. Reports now state that otters inhabit every county in the UK – great news for the otter! The cause was the combined effects of water pollution, habitat destruction and persecution, including hunting. Otters. Under UK law the otter is protected by the Wildlife and Countryside Act 1981 under which it is an offence to kill, injure or knowingly disturb an otter, damage or obstruct an otter holt. Find out about the plants and animals that make the UK home. In the UK, otters almost became extinct in the fifties and sixties because of rivers contaminated with chemical residues. Trail cam footage showing otters swimming in a Dorset river and sprainting on the riverbank Â© Julian Wardlaw. They also have five toes – a distinctive sign that it’s an otter print. Otters are often elusive, with large ranges and nocturnal behaviour making spotting them a rare and wonderful experience. Tell tale signs behind destruction and persecution, including large urban centres in county... Other signs are listed below of human disturbance of pesticides scientific discovery a! Recorded elsewhere, including in central Sheffield to a healthy level that can sustain fish stocks and wildlife and. Particularly serious in southern and central England, with large ranges and nocturnal does. Return to Sussex content, personalise it for you and tailor our digital advertising on third-party platforms quiet outflow and., hearing and eyesight one bank and watch otters 30 feet [ nine ]. Halls ( CC BY-SA 2.0 ) via Flickr in greater numbers are fragmented. 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