Otter spotted in central Sussex
An eagle-eyed member of the public couldn’t believe his eyes when he caught sight of what he thought was an otter swimming in a river in central Sussex. Having captured it on camera, he kindly sent it to Sussex Wildlife Trust, where Living Landscapes Advisor Fran Southgate was delighted to confirm that he had indeed seen an otter.
Fran says, “This is extremely exciting, as it was only two years ago – almost to the day - that a live otter was first caught on camera in Sussex, marking the return of this species to our county after an absence of almost five decades. Thanks to this latest sighting, we now know for certain that otters have made a comeback in two separate Sussex river catchments.
“This is fantastic news. Following decades of hard work by a range of Government bodies, charities and others, it shows that our rivers are now recovering from the pollution that killed them off. The otter is a flagship wetland species and its presence indicates that the whole aquatic ecosystem is healthy – from the plants and bugs to the molluscs, dragonflies and fish, all the way up through the food chain to the otter.
“Having waited for the otter’s return for so long, we are thrilled with this latest evidence that they are slowly but surely recolonising Sussex. Their natural recovery marks a positive breakthrough in the restoration of healthy river systems across the county.”
Shy and normally nocturnal, otters thrive in clean, unpolluted water with a plentiful food supply and quiet, undisturbed places to rest and breed. Their diet includes snails, frogs, shellfish and eels as well as fish, and a single otter’s territory can encompass a vast 40 km stretch of river.
The otter is a native species but was driven to extinction across much of England by the 1970s, mainly due to persecution and the pollution of our rivers and wetlands. Thanks to concerted conservation efforts, it has since made a welcome return to every English county but is still a rare sight, and otters are fully protected by law.