IN THIS ISSUE: Volume 3, Issue 2
Shelly Lachish examines the rise and fall of Britain’s most playful predator – the humble river otter.
“The sliver of grey drifts gently below the overhanging grass at the far side of the river. Just as I convince myself it’s a floating log, one end swishes quickly from side to side before it duck dives under the water.
For the next ten seconds all is still and calm. Then I see ripples in the middle of the river and out of the muddy waters emerges the grey, whiskered head of a river otter (Lutra lutra). The otter glides its sleek, shiny body along the surface, stealing quick glances up and down the riverbank. I don’t dare move. On the far bank I see a second streamlined form enter the water with torpedo-like precision. Soon the two otters are swimming together in the calm water in front me. As they dive, their nostrils close, their webbed feet hug their flanks, and their body undergoes an undulating motion. Using their hind feet as rudders, they twist and turn sharply in search of food. When they return for air, a stream of bubbles caressing their sinewy bodies, they adopt a leisurely dog paddle, barrel-rolling and floating contentedly on the surface.
These two are clearly masters of their murky, subaquatic realm, and supremely adapted for life in the water. Although they measure just one metre from head to tail and weigh in at less than 10kg, on this English river these much-adored mammals are top of the pecking order. Yet 40 years ago the otter’s reign as King of the River very nearly came to an end.”
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