European Otter
Otter Watch

They writhed and tumbled
Co-joined, play fighting
Sleek wet bodies
In aquatic display.

Mother whickered
Calling her children
For the butterfish meal
She’d caught fresh today.

Two whiskered heads
Popped out of the water
‘We’re coming’, they cried
Bellies empty from play.

The bitch stepped aside
As her offspring fed
Appetites healthy, for
She’d raised them, that way.

As dusk falls, I leave
Another satisfying day
Filming the elusive otters
Of Ardmaddy Bay.

When all appears lost, we can make a difference and if we fail, at least we can say that we tried. It is our Animal Kingdom to save and protect. Introducing Endangered Species – with a growing success story of a animal once nearly lost to the British countryside.

The European river Otter, belongs to the family of Mustelidae and is an iconic creature of British waterways, but was once threatened with falling numbers and even extinction.

The Otter has learned to be a secret and elusive creature, evading man that once hunted them with dogs – called Otterhounds, thankfully no longer practised with Otters having full legal protection. Their biggest threat came with the broad use of organochlorine pesticides, used mainly in sheep dips and seed dressings. Introduced in the late 1950’s, they were thought to be answer to many farming problems and with few guidelines in place, little protection was used. Run off from the mixed chemicals found its way into waterways and river courses, decimating the fish population, on which the otters feed, and also affecting the otters directly, with major loss of habitat. Whilst they could have maybe coped with hunting, they stood no chance against the chemical invasion and numbers plummeted.

They were not alone. Many creatures in the Western World were also badly affected, such as Sparrowhawk's and Peregrine Falcons. Alarms were raised and the uses of such chemicals were banned in 1970. Man involved in their use, have also suffered long term effects. Compensation claims have been high.

But what compensation was there for our otters?

First to come was a clean up campaign for our rivers and waterways, this took many years to achieve and hours of back breaking labour and management.

Everyone from councils, the British Waterways Board and conservation bodies working together. Now once more, we have rivers and waterways to be proud of. We are getting there.

Next, to tackle the recovery, increase and spread of the otter. Existing conservation bodies found themselves working alongside newly formed groups; such was the appeal of this enigmatic creature and a determination not to lose it from our British wildlife list. Re-introduction, improvement of habitat and most importantly education, was just three of the ways they went about this.

Their patience and perseverance has been rewarded, slowly but surely otter numbers are increasing and rivers and waterways once devoid of otters, now find themselves re-colonised. Like fingers of water trickling over a map, the otters have spread countrywide. Some stretches of water, however, are still devoid of otters, why, is not entirely sure; we still have a way to go; but on the whole the numbers going into 2011 are heart-warming indeed.

One area of the British Isles, the coast and sea lochs of the Shetland Isles is a major stronghold for the European Otter. There they find the peace, to live their lives and raise their young. It is where many wildlife film makers and cameramen head for to bring us exclusive footage of these sleek and most attractive creatures, who the British public have taken to their hearts.

If you have the good fortune to see an otter for yourself, the joy will be boundless. A creature, which was once nearly driven to extinction, is still with us and slowly flourishing.

Sparrowhawk's and Peregrine Falcon numbers have also recovered, with good conservation.

For further information on the otter go to -

www.forestry.gov.uk/forestry/otter

homepage.ntlworld.com/alan.huxley/otter.htm

www.bbc.co.uk/nature/species/European_Otter for video footage.