Sneak peek of Springwatch Guide to Otters: Thursday 8pm BBC2

Wednesday 19 December 2012, 18:09

Paul Deane Paul Deane Web Producer

The Springwatch team are joined by fieldcraft experts Simon King and Charlie Hamilton James for an in-depth view of one of the UK's most charismatic yet enigmatic animals - the otter.

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On a calm day in the Shetlands Isles, Simon King finds an otter hunting in clear water.

Living not only along our rivers but also at the coast, otters have remarkable adaptations to a life both in and out of water. The team bring you the very latest scientific discoveries as well as a review of the turbulent history of the otter in the UK. It looks like the otter is making a steady comeback around the country but not everybody agrees this is good news.

And there's more clips from Springwatch Guide Otters.


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    Comment number 4.

    Loving the otter programme, I thought his comments that river otters come out at night interesting as I have seen a lot of otters at various locations in Moray and while kayaking the river Spey I have had several very close encounters where the otters have come to the boat for a 'nosey', and all these encounters have been very much during the day.

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    Comment number 5.

    I live in Somerset and a few miles from where Otters can be seen, we also have them on the river where i live. I think blaming them for eating fish isn't fair as there are other predators as others have mentioned but at least they eat the fish unlike most anglers who just like to catch fish for sport and not for food. We should let them get on with it as before long we will have no wild animals left due to the hunting of foxes and the culling of badgers.

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    Comment number 6.

    We suspect the fish farms may be shooting them up here unfort. Hopefully not, I'm encouraged by the comments that you're lucky to see one but we saw one close to our house and it wasn't very shy- we walked down the road with it as it swam down the coast. It disappeared the day after the fish farm was shooting lots - hopefully coincidence. They're allowed to shoot seals around here with a licence you see and nobody questions whether the fish farm actually have a licence, and whether it's actually seals being shot. Seal colonies have totally been wiped out in the area. Sad but I guess people have to make a living. I just hope that if seals or anything else are shot they'renot just wounded.

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    Comment number 7.

    Excellent programme, huge thanks to all involved.

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    Comment number 10.

    I really enjoyed the programme as you can't get enough about Otters. Great contributions from the presenters.

    A few points.

    At one point the narration mention river Otters feeding at night on Bullheads and Eels. Whereas oddly the on screen footage showed Minnows and Lampreys.

    This leads onto another point. There was mention of rivers getting cleaner, and this playing its part in the recovery of the Otter. I am not really too sure about this. Except for some of the more heavily polluted urban rivers most areas contained more than enough clean freshwaters with a good supply of fish to support an Otter population. So this cannot be the reason they disappeared from most of England and then re-colonised it, because there has not been a big enough change in water quality during this period to account for this.

    The important factor missing from the programme, and a lot of reporting about the recovery of the Otter, is the massive decline in the population of the Common Eel, up to 99%. This really is shocking. When I was young Eels were by far the most numerous and widely distributed freshwater fish. They were present in huge numbers. Common Eels were also supposedly the main prey item of the Otter. It's easy to understand this as not only are Eels very nutritional, but they were ideally suited to the hunting strategy of Otters.

    However, the implications of this are very important and relative to some of the issues raised in the programme. The recovering Otter population is now recolonising waters which have lost a huge proportion of their Eel population. Otters are adaptable predators and can switch to other fish as prey species. Unfortunately these other fish populations involve fish which are stocked by anglers and which may have commercial value.

    This has become a particular problem because during the period where Otter population was low, Carp fishing became very popular, and commercial. Lots of waters were stocked with Carp (which are in fact a non-native species). Carp are very visible, very large fish which often cruise at the surface. It is not surprising that Otters target them in the face of the huge decline of the Common Eel.


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