As otters are relatively shy animals, it is often difficult to spot them and to identify which areas they inhabit. This is why it is necessary to look for 'signs' of otters in order to study them, such as the spraint they leave behind, and their footprints. Spraint is particulary useful as this confirms without a doubt that an otter has been in an area, and also gives clues of its diet as most of its food contains indigestable parts which is left behind within the spraint.
In 2011 the Environment Agency reported that otters were now present in every county in England. Otters were almost driven to extinction during the last century, with the effects of the use of harmful pesticides largely to blame.
Even though otter numbers are now higher, they are still considered to be at risk due to loss of habitat, new road developments, and also severe weather such as flooding.
The Eurasian Otter (Lutra Lutra)
Otters are mustelids and part of the Mustelidae family, which includes badgers, ferrets and weasels. Otters are semi-aquatic animals and spend the majority of their time in the water. Their dens, called 'holts', are found close to the water and are usually in the form of tunnels; they also use 'couches' which are resting sites above ground.
Otters find most of their food in or around the water, and their diet consists mainly of fish and eels, but they will also eat frogs, birds and some mammals.