Wild otter caught on film in Peak District for first time

Scientists in the Department of Animal and Plant Sciences at the University of Sheffield have captured the first ever footage of a wild otter in the Peak District as part of a study which could help recovering otter populations.

The footage, which was filmed by a research team led by the University of Sheffield’s Department of Animal and Plant Sciences, shows an otter marking territory by leaving spraint (droppings) on the bank of a river.

Otter numbers crashed in the UK becoming locally extinct in much of England by the 1970s. Bans on pesticides, legal protection, improvements in water quality and targeted conservation efforts have led to the return of the otter to many counties. However, recovery has been slow, particularly in the North of England.

Researchers at the University of Sheffield are now using DNA extracted from otter spraints to study the connectivity and seasonality of otter movements and their diets in the region.

Findings from the study could help to make recommendations to improve habitat for otters and their prey, and identify ways to improve connectivity, which could help the recovering otter population.

Dr Deborah Dawson, who is leading the otter DNA analysis at the University of Sheffield, said: “To obtain footage of otter in the Peak District is fantastic and we look forward to analysing the spraint this individual left behind alongside other spraints we have found in the Peaks to obtain genetic profiles. These can then be compared to work out the numbers, sexes, distances travelled and diet of our local otters.”

For more information about this research, please visit the otter study webpage.

More news related to this item is available on the University of Sheffield news pages.