The otterly wonderful otter! - The Heart of England Forest

Few sights bring more joy than seeing a family of otters frolicking on the riverbank. And we are pleased to say they have been spotted around the waterways in the Heart of England Forest, although you will be very lucky if you spot one

Making a comeback

Otter numbers dwindled in the 1960s and 1970s due to a steady decline in water quality, destruction of their natural habitat and hunting. As a result, since 1981, otters have been a protected species, and capturing, killing or disturbing them can result in an unlimited fine and even prison for offenders.

Thanks to these regulations, together with an improvement in water quality and habitats, the otter population is slowly recovering in Britain, and they are now present across the country. They seem to particularly like Warwickshire, and their local numbers have shown a steady rise – they have even been spotted near the Royal Shakespeare Theatre in Stratford-upon-Avon! Of course, we are keen to ensure they are welcome in the Heart of England Forest.

How to spot an otter

There is no mistaking an otter if you are fortunate enough to catch a glimpse of one. They are much bigger than mink, with a more powerful body, paler grey-brown fur, a broader snout, chest and throat. Excellent swimmers, their webbed feet mean that their young can move swiftly through the water at just 10 weeks of age. They have the thickest fur of any animal, with over one million hairs per square inch, so they are well insulated against the cold water!

Active throughout the year, otters are nocturnal and solitary animals, preferring to spend the daylight hours inside their homes, known as ‘holts’, although on sunny days they can occasionally be seen sunbathing! They make their holts in riverbanks, tree cavities and within piles of wood or rocky debris. The best times to see otters are at dawn or dusk, where there is clean water for them to hunt for fish, although they do eat insects and small mammals, too. Let us know if you are fortunate enough to spot one!

Five fascinating facts about otters

  • They have the ability to use tools, just like beavers and apes
  • Although they have similar characteristics, otters are not related to beavers, but are cousins of the skunk!
  • In the wild, they can live, on average, around 10 years
  • Otters can remain underwater for up to four minutes at a time, and dive as deep as 300 metres looking for food
  • Male otters are called ‘boars’, the femiales ‘sows’, and the offspring ‘pups’
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