A FAMILY of rare otters have been found swimming in waters near Chester.
Infra-red cameras set up by the Cheshire Wildlife Trust on the River Gowy recorded a family of three otters swimming in the area - the first time that three have been recorded on film together in the area.
Although the Trust were aware of otter sightings along the river in recent years, the presence of a mother and her two cubs suggests that breeding has been successful in the area.
The footage was discovered by the Trust’s project assistant Chris Meredith, who recovered the camera just hours before the area was submerged with floodwater.
“Had I visited the next day, not only would we have had no footage, but probably no camera too,” said Chris.
“We’re so used to tracking the progress of otters through field signs like footprints and droppings that video footage like this is invaluable – especially when it shows a healthy family passing through just a few miles from the middle of Chester.”
Often known as the ‘River King’, otters disappeared from much of the UK’s river network during the latter part of the 20th century, with the then heavily polluted rivers of the North West taking a heavy toll on the rare mammals with numbers plummeting by the 1970s.
Clean-ups of rivers like the Mersey and its tributaries have since seen a resurgence in otter numbers, but it was only as recent as 2011 that otters were confirmed as present in every county in Britain once again.
Cheshire Wildlife Trust uses motion-detection camera technology to determine whether hard-to-see species like otters and water voles are returning to their ‘Living Landscape’ project area where conservation work has been focused on rivers and wetlands.
Chris added: “We work to tackle big issues including the health of our rivers and flood management hand-in-hand with maintaining the right habitats for stunning animals like the otter, and when we see footage like this, we know the wildlife is benefitting too.”