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THETFORD: Otter time

17th February 2013

Cathy has wanted to see an Otter for some time, and as she doesn't particularly like Strumpshaw (probably the best place to see Otters locally) we decided to go to Thetford where several Otters have been showing well recently. We arrived, saw a small group of photographers, walked up to them and there in the river were two Otters! I had hoped that we would see them, but was still a bit surprised that they would be there on cue, particularly as information on their presence was largely restricted to 'Thetford' to reduce the risk of attacks by people who aren't as appreciative of them. We went for a nice riverside walk in the sunshine hoping to catch up with them further along, but in the end settled for our initial views.

Otters can be a divisive species. To some they are a beautiful mammal that is very much a part of the river ecosystem, to others they are unwanted predators that devour large collections of expensive fish. I'm not going to tell people what they should think, but I would say is that I advocate critical thinking to support your own view. If you want to know about Otters, then please look at several sources to back up anything you read online or in the papers. Be particularly wary of figures that don't have a source. If someone is claiming that x number of Otters are present on a river, is that from a properly carried out survey? It could be an estimate, or it could be completely made up (as I suspect one letter in particular to the EDP suggesting that there were 70 pairs of Otters along the Wensum was). Also, does the writer have a particular agenda? Someone who has just lost some expensive fish may not be impartial. Some people are against culling of any species, whilst at the other end of the spectrum some want to cull almost anything that eats large fish (Otters, Cormorants, Goosanders...)

A few key points:
  • Otters are currently protected by law - it is illegal to kill or disturb them
  • Otters were re-introduced to Norfolk after their population had dropped significantly
  • The re-introductions were carried out by the Otter Trust, and ceased in 1996 - see here
  • Otters and other predators numbers don't just keep going up. They are governed by predator-prey dynamics - if there is not enough prey items then the number of predators will decrease.

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