Otter deaths increasing in Dorset

Dorset Wildlife Trust (DWT) has been made aware of a rising number of otter deaths in Dorset this autumn. Most deaths have occurred on roads and are thought to be due to otters resorting to using roads as recent rainfall has left them unable to swim under bridges in rivers.

Small ditches and streams are also holding more water, enabling otters to move through the landscape more easily, bringing them into increased contact with roads in Dorset.

Otters are protected in the UK under the Wildlife and Countryside Act, 1981.  They mainly feed on fish and are well suited to life on the water as they have webbed feet, dense fur to keep them warm, and can close their ears and nose when underwater.  In Dorset, otters are regularly seen on the river Stour, however they are mostly shy nocturnal animals and their presence is normally detected by their distinctive sweet musky smelling faeces (known as spraints) which are deposited in prominent places, 

DWT Living Landscape Manager, Amanda Broom said, “After almost disappearing from England in the 1970s otters have made a gradual recovery.  In Dorset we are fortunate to have a wonderful network of rivers which support this beautiful enigmatic creature.  Dorset Wild Rivers, a Wessex Water funded partnership project, enables us to work with farmers, landowners and fishing clubs to look after and further improve the health of rivers so that they can continue to support otters and other wildlife.”

DWT is also working with Dorset Police to help ensure safety for road users when an otter is found.  Dorset Police advise people not to stop on dangerous bends in the dark and to consider their own safety and that of others if they find an otter in the road.

If an injured otter is found in the road, contact Dorset Police if causing a hazard to drivers. If there is no hazard then you should call the Environment Agency on 03708 506506 who will advise on what to do with the carcass.  If fresh, some carcasses may be sent to Cardiff University for post-mortem examination as this can provide a valuable insight into health and biology. 

If medical assistance is needed for an injured otter, phone the RSPCA National Emergency number 0300 1234 9999.

For any suspicious circumstances of otter deaths, this must be also be reported to the police via 101@dorset.pnn.police.uk as a wildlife crime. Evidence of snares or home-made snares such as cable ties, an appearance of being shot, trapped or poisoned should be reported.

For more information about this story, contact Dorset Wildlife Trust on 01305 264620.