Where and how to spot an otter

Is spotting an otter on your wildlife bucket list? Here are a few of the UK’s best natural sites for catching a glimpse of this marvelous mammal.

6th August 2014
©Thinkstock - Where to see otters in the UK

Lizzie Duffin the best places to catch sight of an otter this summer. 

Cricklepit Mill, Devon Wildlife Trust

In the heart of Exeter City Centre, this urban location provides an easily accessible place to spot an otter.  There's even a hide you can use to wait without being spotted. You may smell an otter before you see one, as their droppings, which are called spraints, each carry their own idiosyncratic scent. This provides a means of communication for each otter and can also indicate that an otter is nearby.

Directions: Exeter City Centre. 15 mins on foot from bus station and 20 mins from the train station. Grid ref: SX 919 922. Open weekdays except bank hols. 

Wolseley Centre, Staffordshire Wildlife Trust

Otters have been sighted on Wolseley Centre’s special night vision camera. The camera, positioned on the banks of the brook that leads into the River Trent, has recently captured numerous images of otter activity. Although otters are most active at nighttime, the footage confirms that this beautiful site does indeed play host to these sought after creatures and so otter seekers are in with a great chance of catching a glimpse of them, even in the day.

Directions: In Wolseley Bridge, on the A51 approx 2 miles NW of Rugeley. Grid ref: SK 024 202. 

Ranworth Broad, Norfolk Wildlife Trust

The floating Broads Wildlife Centre enables you to spot its otters by boat.  The Norfolk’s Wildlife Trust runs electric boat trips every 45 minutes, departing at 10:45am, 12:15pm, 2pm and 3:30pm. When in the water, otters swim very flat on the water’s surface, becoming increasingly visible when they dive, as their tail becomes arched above the surface. This makes the otters noticeable from a distance.  Bubbles are also an indication of otter activity. Otters close their nostrils when they are beneath the surface; this causes air to be forced from their coats, which leaves a trail of bubbles on the surface of the water. Otters also leave a v-shaped wake behind them as they swim, meaning that the surface of the water can hold many clues as to the whereabouts of a nearby otter.

Directions: Close to the village of Ranworth, look for signs for Broads Wildlife Centre Car-park. Grid Ref: TG 358151.

Aughton Woods, Lancashire

This woodland wonder provides ample opportunity for otter spotters. The clue to carefully look at the trail, as footprints are a key indication of otter action. An otter’s footprints are usually asymmetric and often display only four toes, despite the fact that they actually have five. The footprints range in size, from between 40-80mm across and are not to be confused with Mink prints, which are much smaller.

Directions: 5 miles NE of Lancaster between Aughton and Caton. Car Park at Crook ‘o Lune; public footpath along the river. Grid ref: SD 543 663.

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