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Wild Travel Magazine

First Evidence of Otters in Central Surrey for 40 Years

20/03/2008 15:08:46
March 2008. Chris Matcham, Otters and Rivers Project Officer of Surrey Wildlife Trust, has discovered several otter spraints in Godalming. Otters are quite uncommon in Surrey, signs have only been found in the far west of the county on the River Wey and the Blackwater which are thought only to be left by the occasional visitor.

The Surrey Wildlife Trust is working on a number of projects to boost otter numbers and signs of their presence are now being found more frequently which suggests the measures are working.
 
Otters are returning to Surrey Rivers. © G Sweetnam/SWT
Threatened by Road Traffic
The main threat to these beautiful creatures is road traffic, so the Trust is working in partnership with Surrey County Council to create safe routes under bridges; helping otters avoid these fatal bottlenecks.

Improved Habitat
The Trust is also working with the Farming and Wildlife Advisory Group (FWAG) and Wey Valley Project to improve the riverside habitat, private landowners to provide safe resting sites and the Environment Agency (EA) who are not only improving water quality and fish stocks in the rivers but who also help to fund the project.

Artificial Otter Holts
Much effort has also been put into the assembly and siting of artificial otter holts which Chris has designed himself, and The Waterways Trust has just today awarded the Trust £4000 to build 5 more on lock islands on the Thames between Penton Hook and Teddington. The EA and Blackwater Valley Countryside Partnership have both helped to train volunteers, on which the Trust relies enormously, to check areas and man-made holts for signs of otters and for ongoing maintenance of the riverside habitat.

Chris said: ‘At last, the habitat restoration and water quality improvement work we've undertaken with local landowners and the Environment Agency seems to be bearing fruit, as far as otter re-colonisation is concerned. Otters are notoriously elusive and difficult to spot, so their field signs (most obvious ones being faeces) are often the only way we have of knowing that otters are on a particular stretch of river. Now that we've found these signs in Godalming, Otter Project Volunteers will continue to monitor to check whether the animal stays in the area or moves on to try and find a mate.'

Courtesy of the Surrey Wildlife Trust.

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