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The Otter (Lutra lutra) is a semi-aquatic mammal. It is a large member of the weasel family. These elusive and secretive animals can be found on coasts and estuaries and in fresh water habitats with suitable cover. It lives in a ‘holt’, often among the roots of a riverside tree.
In the early 1960s otters were on the verge of extinction due to river pollution, habitat loss and hunting. Now with full legal protection, cleaner rivers and managed habitat, its future is brighter. In 2011 the Environment Agency announced that otters had returned to every county in England since vanishing from every county except the West Country and parts of Northern England.
YACWAG Otter Group was set up in January 2012 to continue the work of the North Somerset Otter Group, run by Avon Wildlife Trust, which was disbanded when funding for the North Somerset Levels and Moors Project came to an end.
The group monitors the otter population in North Somerset, and sends records to BRERC (Bristol Regional Environmental Record Centre). We offer training to potential surveyors, and welcome records from members of the public. We are also happy to provide information and assist with enquiries (see below).
Since the group was founded otters have become a welcome local success story. The frequency of sightings has increased over the years, but you would still be lucky to see an otter as they are most active at night, and in the twilight hours.
Although otters are no longer in danger of extinction in the UK they are still vulnerable and monitoring the population is important to ensure that they continue to thrive. Survey work relies on recognising signs such as spraint and footprints. Catching a glimpse of an otter is definitely a bonus!
Somerset Otter Group was founded by the late James Williams, who helped us launch the YACWAG group in January 2012. There is probably more otter expertise concentrated here than anywhere else in England.
The Greater Bristol Otter Group is our sister group, covering the Bristol and Bath area.
International Otter Survival Fund is a charity based in Skye in the Hebrides, Scotland run by Paul and Grace Yoxon.
Cardiff University's Otter Project runs a long term environmental surveillance scheme, using otters found dead to investigate contaminants, disease, and population biology across the UK. This is where we send any dead otters we retrieve for post mortem.
YACWAG Otter Group Contact Details:
We host a freezer, provided by the Environment Agency, for the collection of dead otters for post mortem. To report a dead otter contact Gill Brown on 07810 887293
For all other Otter Group enquiries email: firstname.lastname@example.org