Wild About Cumbria – Otters

In this installment of our Wild About Cumbria series, Danielle Murphy delves deeper into the lives of Cumbria’s otters.

There are few people that can honestly say they don’t experience the heartwarming feeling that  comes over most of us at the sight of otters holding hands. Let’s be honest, when Blue Planet 2 featured otters cuddling each other, it is fair to assume in every UK household the scene was met with a rally of involuntary noises, much to the sound of “awww” and “eeeep”. We love them, and luckily enough here in Cumbria the chances to see a wild otter aren’t as slim as many believe.

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Here in Britain the only species we have is the Eurasian Otter (Luntra, Lutra). They are part of the weasel family and typically grow to be anything from 70cm to 1m long. They can be identified by their brown, white and grey fur.

Being semi-aquatic they thrive by the rivers and lakes, which we know Cumbria is not short of. While their diet consists of primarily fish, they will occasionally take small birds and during spring time they rely quite heavily on frogs.

Known for their playful disposition and juvenile appearance, otters are very intelligent but know how to have fun. Unfortunately they are among many species that have faced hard times in the past. The 20th century nearly saw to the end of Britain’s otter population with numbers almost completely depleted by the 1980’s. With habitat destruction, pollution and pesticides being the primary exterminators of otters.

Luckily recent years have been kinder to the lovable otter and conservation efforts have paid off with reports stating otters are now present in every county in the UK.

Although this is a victory in some ways, in others there is still a long way to go. The habitats which the otters are currently inhabiting still need to be cautiously managed to ensure success for the otters as the numbers are still relatively low in Britain.

Otters have been recorded in the Eden valley and some of its tributary rivers. They have also been recorded in Ullswater, Derwentwater and Longlands Lake between Egremont and Cleator.

These lovely, playful creatures are a wonder to watch, however are very elusive. Sightings in Cumbria are rare, but they are here, so if keep your eyes peeled and your ears open you might be lucky enough to catch a glimpse of an otter.

(Please be aware that these animals scare easy and can become very stressed, so if you do see them, we urge you not to try to approach them or get close for a photo, instead take your photo from a distance and enjoy the moment.)

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