An Otter Day

Finally a day dawned bright and sunny. Clear blue sky, interrupted by only the occasional whisp of white cloud, arched above the river meandering its way through shady woods. Despite the thin layer of frost covering the ground this morning, it felt like spring was well on its way. Birds sang out through the clear air, hidden amongst the branches and evergreens of the wood. A muntjac stag, with small but prominent antlers, stood firm but wary in the undergrowth watching the dog and her owners pass by on the muddy path. The swollen, murky brown river swept past, its smooth surface undisturbed until reaching a turn in its path where it swirled in small eddies.

Ahead a sleek, brown body rolled, breaking the calm surface of the river. Following a trail of bubbles and the mystery resident surfaces again, an otter. Working his way along the far side, the otter repeatedly dived, surfaced and dived again. Often he would appear chomping on some morsel of food, occasionally he would stop for a rest before continuing along his mission up the river.
Munching on a morsel of food

Following a dramatic decline in numbers between the 1950s and mid-70s, legal protection, cleaner rivers and management has led to a resurgence in the UK otter population, with otters now returned to every county in England. Although many may not agree to me it is a welcome return, a true conservation success story. In the rivers, streams and estuaries of England otters are usually elusive and secretive, coming out to hunt between dusk and dawn, and shying away from human activity. Many however, are becoming more active during the day reflecting their increasing distribution but also with less persecution these wild animals may becoming less wary of people. Along the rivers and lakes of Thetford the otter has become somewhat of a local celebrity, often being seen hunting and playing in broad daylight. In the past few years a female, her cubs as well as a male or dog otter have all been encountered along a stretch of river that runs right through the center of town.

 

The otter and his mustache!

Today’s encounter was with a dog otter with a rather distinctive muzzle, the pale fur above the upper lip and beneath the nose making it look like he has a mustache! Along the rivers edge, dappled with sunlight, he continued to work his way up river before finally, having had his fill, disappearing into the undergrowth of the bank.

On his way again…

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