Otter – Lutra lutra
While otters completely disappeared from the rivers of most of central and southern England in just 50 years, their future now looks much brighter. There is evidence that in certain parts of the UK the otter is extending its range and may be increasing locally. However, otter populations in England are very fragmented and the animals breed slowly. Attempts have been made to reintroduce otters to their former haunts by reintroducing captive bred and rehabilitated animals, with some attempts proving very successful.
Milk chocolate brown fur (darker when wet) with a slightly pale underside. Long slender body and long thick tapering tail. Small ears on a broad head.Adults often a metre or more in length. Swims low in water with top of head and back only just visible and a V-shaped bow wave. When walking/running on land has marked ‘hump-back’ appearance.
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Footprints: Tracks can be found in sand and mud (and snow) alongside rivers and streams. They are five-toed, but often only four toes appear in the print. The large, round prints (5-7cm in width, 6-9cm in length) are often pushed deep into the clay providing clear ID field signs.
Droppings: Otters leave spraints (droppings) on rocks or logs close to water. They contain mainly fish shells, bones, shells of crustaceans, feathers or fur. Highly variable in size. Colour: greenish, black-grey. Smell: Sweet smelling; jasmine tea or laurel flowers. Often found in small quantities.
American mink (Neovison vison)
Dark brown coat, compared to otter’s lighter mid-brown coat. Mink is same colour all over, except for a white chin, whilst otter has a paler underside. Cylindrical, fluffy, blunt tail, not muscular and tapering like the otter. Pointed muzzle and smaller than a domestic cat. Otter has a broader muzzle and is larger than a cat.
Eurasian beaver (Castor fiber)
Broad, flat tail, unlike the long, muscular, tapering tail of the otter. The beaver’s broader rodent muzzle is less pointed than the otter’s carnivore muzzle. Beaver has a stockier body, compared to the long body of the otter.