Otters have made a welcome return to the rivers of Greater Manchester, according to a recent survey commissioned by the Environment Agency.
Evidence of this incredibly rare and charismatic mammal has been spotted on the River Irwell, near Ramsbottom, Bradshaw Brook in Bolton and a tributary of the River Bollin near Altrincham.
Duncan Revell, Environment Agency Biodiversity Officer is very pleased with this discovery: “This is fantastic news as these are likely to be the first confirmed reports of this species in this area of Greater Manchester for over a hundred years. The presence of Otters is a strong indicator of the environmental health of a river. It reflects good water quality, habitat and food supply.”
During the first half of the last century, the Otter population suffered significantly, when it was driven to near-extinction as a result of pollution, continued hunting and habitat destruction. Earlier in the 1800s, the Industrial Revolution had a huge impact on the environment and wildlife as a whole. Rivers were straightened and walled, weirs were installed preventing fish migration, pollution increased dramatically and wetlands were drained and subsequently destroyed.
Duncan continues: “For some time now, the Environment Agency has invested a huge amount of effort, working with partners and influencing developers and industry to help restore river habitat and water quality. Clearly there has been some improvement, but there’s still a lot of work to be done to protect and enhance our river corridors for wildlife and people alike.”
In the past, the Environment Agency has investigated reports of Otter sightings across Greater Manchester, but these reports could not be backed up by scientific evidence, or often turned out to be false, with people mistaking mink for Otters
David Sweeting of ecology consultants TEP who carried out the survey on behalf of the Environment Agency said: “Our surveyors examined over a hundred potential sites in and around Manchester, and we were thrilled to finally find signs of Otters, especially on the river Irwell, given that it is so close to the city centre.”
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Notes to editors:
Did you know…..?
1) Adult Otters are solitary, nomadic creatures. They are very territorial of their habitat, occupying large stretches of rivers, sometimes up to 40km for male Otters.
2) About 80% of an Otter’s diet is fish. They eat around 1kg per day. They have a particular preference for eels but will also eat frogs, toads, crayfish, waterfowl and even small mammals.
3) During the daytime, Otters will lie in secure resting sites, usually amongst tree roots or dense scrub. Each Otter will establish up to 30 resting sites within its territory.
4) Otters can breed at any time of the year, however most cubs are born in winter. Pregnant females require undisturbed breeding dens, called holts, where cubs will stay until they are 3 months old. Young Otters become independent after approximately a year, when they begin to fend for themselves.
5) Unfortunately, the mortality rate for young Otters is high, partly due to road accidents, with the average lifespan being 4 years. Adult Otters do not breed until they are 2 years old, so the population of Otters in any one area is never large.
6) Conservation work for Otters started in the 1970s. It has mainly concentrated on protecting and improving river corridors and wetland environments.
7) Thankfully, Otter hunting is no longer practiced in the UK, and the Otter is fully protected under conservational law. It is an offence to injure, kill or take an Otter, or to intentionally destroy or disturb it from its breeding or resting place.