SUSSEX Wildlife Trust is appealing for help with its otter spotting project after completing a survey looking for otters on the Western River Rother, between Stopham, Midhurst, Rogate and Sheet in Hampshire.
Between May and September Peter King, a volunteer for the Sussex Wetland Landscapes Project, walked 37 kilometres of the meandering river looking for otter signs including spraint (droppings) and footprints.
Otters became extinct in Sussex – and across most of the United Kingdom in the 1950s due to water pollution and widespread destruction of their natural habitat.
In the last 20 years extensive conservation efforts to improve the health of rivers and wetlands have resulted in a handful of otters returning to the county.
The recent survey conducted for the Sussex Wetland Landscapes Project, aimed to find out if the work to improve the health of the whole Western River Rother would allow otters to establish new territories or use it as a migration cotrust’s wetland officer said: “Otters are a great indicator of whether our rivers are healthy.
“If otters are there then our rivers are clean enough for people, fish, dragonflies and a whole wealth of other wildlife.
“We are receiving increasing numbers of otter sightings from members of the public and local landowners although some of the sightings are of American mink and not otters.
“This survey concludes there’s still a lot of work to do to make our rivers healthy for otters,” she added. “One otter can need as much as 40 kilometres of river just to get enough food and enough places to rest.”
Anyone who thinks they have spotted an otter or other wildlife should contact the Sussex Wildlife Trust to help officers build up a picture of species in the county.
The wildlife advice pages on the trust’s website has an easy online recording form for all sightings.
Alternatively anyone who has a wildlife query should ring Sussex Wildlife Trust’s information hotline on 01273 494777.