Catching a glimpse of a wild otter is something only few are lucky enough to experience. You can start searching for one of the UK’s rare natural success stories with The Wildlife Trusts’ new guide Great places to see Otters.
The Wildlife Trusts’ new online guide provides suggestions of 34 places to look for this elusive and beautiful animal – including 3 nature reserves in Scotland: Spey Bay in Moray, Loch of the Lowes in Dunkeld, Perthshire and the Falls of Clyde near Lanark, South Lanarkshire.
Following near extinction during the middle of the twentieth century as a result of persecution and poisoning from pesticides, otters are now present in every English county, as well as Wales and Northern Ireland.
Otters can be seen in every major river in Scotland, inlcuding close to the city centre in Edinburgh, Dundee and Aberdeen.
The Wildlife Trusts have been at the forefront of conservation efforts to restore otter populations. Improved water quality, habitat management and increased protection for otters have all played a part in this remarkable conservation success story.
Sightings are far from guaranteed and to increase your chances you’ll need to get up early! Please remember that otters are highly sensitive animals – disturbing otters or their habitat is an offence under the Wildlife & Countryside Act so tread carefully and quietly.
The Wildlife Trusts’ Vice President, Bill Oddie, said: “It is still a difficult task but you are more likely to get lucky in spotting an otter now than ever before. The main fact is that you now stand a pretty good chance of coming across an otter virtually anywhere in the country. I don’t mean up and down the roads or hills but in the rivers – there are now otters recorded in every county – that’s fantastic – and undoubtedly as a result of conservation efforts of Wildlife Trusts and others.”
Otters can be distinguished from mink by a larger, stronger frame with paler fur and a broader snout and chest. Otters depend on rivers and waterways, learning to swim at just 10 weeks old. Webbed feet, dense fur and the ability to close their ears and nose make them adept underwater swimmers.
A helping hand
Creating places for otters to shelter and give birth in, called holts, is just one of the many activities that have contributed to their increased numbers at nature reserves. In addition, the Scottish Wildlife Trust is constantly seeking help from volunteers in cleaning up waterways and surveying various habitats for otters.