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Still Waters

Return of the elusive otter

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At the depths of their decline in the 1970s, healthy populations could only be found in Scottish strongholds beyond the reach of harmful pesticides.

Even before their dramatic population problem, the elusive mammals were rarely glimpsed - but a starring role on the silver screen in 1969 film Ring of Bright Water opened many people's eyes and hearts to the animals.

After decades of dedicated work to clean up our waterways, conservationists recently celebrated their return to every county in England and the chances of spotting an otter have now vastly improved.

http://www.bbc.co.uk/nature/22286398

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Otters are one of my favourite animals. Although I was brought up in an “otter area” on the west coast, I never saw one in the wild when I was young. Later I moved to the north west coast of Scotland where otters were, I discovered, a common sight. They were frequently to be seen on the beach near my house. There was a ditch/burn in my garden and otters used that as a highway – possibly going to and from the beach --- so they sometimes came into my garden. One even had the misfortune to run under the wheels of my car when I was driving home in the dark. The road was single-track so there was no room to take avoiding action. Otters were also frequent sightings on coastal walks and if there was nearby cover, one could get close enough to them to hear their jaws crunching the fish that the animal had come ashore to eat. The most surprising place that I saw an otter was scampering down the pavement of the main street in the village. How on earth it got there I have no idea.

I used to watch wildlife programmes on tv and in those days Bill Oddie was frequently filmed otter spotting. It seemed that he rarely managed to catch sight of his “elusive” prey except when he had, as it were, dropped his guard. In one of his films he was idly strolling along the promenade at Rosemarkie (on the Black isle) and unexpectedly spotted an otter on the beach. He was so excited he could barely contain himself as he and the cameraman tried to get a closer look.

On the few occasions that I deliberately went “otter spotting” I saw neither hide nor hair of the animals. They were always sighted when I had no particular expectations of seeing one. Perhaps that is the key: don’t deliberately go looking for otters, let them, as it were, come to you.

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