Otters are back on the Upper Rother

New camera footage of two otters captured on the Upper Rother River in Hampshire has left South Downs National Park Rangers optimistic that the animals are making a determined return to the area.

When a solitary otter was captured on a camera trap in September 2015 it was the first confirmed evidence of the animals on the upper Rother since 2001. The camera trap, had been put in place to monitor whether invasive species American mink, which threatens our native wildlife, was at large in the area. But instead recorded a young otter visiting the site on two separate occasions.

Since then, National Park rangers and volunteers have been gradually finding more evidence of otter on the river, mostly by sprainting (leaving droppings) on top of the rafts put in place to check for mink. But new footage captured in May 2017 shows two animals together for the first time.

Laura Deane, South Downs National Park Ranger, said:

 It was exciting to see the first otter arrive but the new film is even better. Otters are mainly solitary so seeing two together here is a sign that the river is returning to health enough to support the fish they eat.

There’s been a real community effort to improve the habitat with local fishing groups, landowners and volunteers all working together to restore the river and encourage more sympathetic land management, this hard work is starting to pay off.

It’s unclear whether this is a breeding pair but we’ll keep working to improve the river’s health so in future it will become a great spot to raise an otter family.

The European otter (Lutra lutra), was common in UK until the 1950s, but had become rare in many parts of England by the 1980s due to pollution and habitat loss. It is now making a strong recovery.