Otters captured on camera for the first time at Suffolk museum
- Credit: Laura Lake
Once an endangered species in the UK, otter numbers have thankfully been on the up over the past few decades – and one local museum has managed to spot a pair of the cute creatures on its riverbanks.
The Museum of East Anglian Life’s conservation/kickstart officer Thomas Peer first had his suspicions otters were on the grounds after noticing leftover crayfish shells and tracks on one of the banks.
“We’ve always been quite certain we had river otter present on our grounds – but no one had been able to confirm they were there. So we strategically positioned our trail camera on this bank in the hopes of getting footage of them,” he explains.
After setting up the camera, it only took Thomas one try before he caught a glimpse of the elusive river dwellers – proving his suspicions.
"The trail cam location was carefully selected after several weeks of surveying the area and deciding on where they would most likely come on the bank to feed.”
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While only two otters were caught on camera, Thomas is certain more live within the museum’s waters. “The river valley is extensive and runs well beyond our property, and is the perfect environment for supporting river otters,” he adds.
“We thought they were around but we did not think we would have so many of them, nor did we know we would get such great shots. We now have several different videos of them playing, feeding, and doing other fun behaviours. We are still buzzing over it, and to have confirmation that we are home to such a rarely-seen animal is really something special.”
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Just a mere 60 years ago, otters were on the brink of extinction due to agricultural chemicals leaching into British rivers and polluting the water mammal’s food chain.
However, a ban on such chemicals has allowed the water quality to recover, meaning fish and otter populations can thrive once again.
“The presence of otters on our land indicates that our river is good and healthy, as they will only live in clean, fresh water that is abundant in food. This means our ecosystem is doing well and is able to support wildlife in the middle of Stowmarket. To be such an oasis for wildlife in the centre of town is something that we are very proud of.”
The museum – which spans over 75 acres of green space – is currently in the process of promoting biodiversity within its grounds, and recently unveiled a series of new visitor footpaths along its river.
The museum’s grounds are home to a number of wildlife species, including badgers, foxes, muntjac, and birds of prey. The museum’s river also supports several different fish species as well as crayfish, a variety of moths, butterflies and dragonflies.