Identification - The Otter is a large member of the stoat and weasel (Mustelid) family. It has a flat head with a small broad snout, long thick tail and webbed feet. It feet are about 40mm across with four toes. Its body length can be up to 80cm with a tail length of up to 55cm. It has brown fur with a white front.

General ecology - Otters are semi-aquatic animals. The otter was once widespread in Essex but there was a rapid decline in the otter population in the early 1960's and the otter became extinct in Essex in the 1970's mainly due to poisoning from agricultural chemicals. Recently, otters have started to recolonise many of the rivers in Essex. Otters inhabit rivers, streams, lakes, marshes and also coastal habitats. As they are the top predator they occur in low densities naturally. They feed mainly on fish but are opportunistic hunters and will diversify - eat other foods.

One threat to Otters is raised by the illegal placing of traps for Crayfish in rivers. Otters will entrer the trap attracted by a trapped crayfish, but then cannot get out. Several Ortters have been found drowned in these illegal Crayfish traps, which should never be used.

Surveying tips - otters are very secretive animals and it is easier to survey for signs such as spraints and footprints. The best time for surveying otters is March to the end of April.

For further information, training and survey forms, contact Mark Iley.

Annual Essex Otter Survey

A county wide survey,part of the RIVERSEARCH project, is undertaken each spring by a team of volunteers. The volunteers attend a training session to identify field signs and suitable places in which to search. The data collected is shared with County Recorders and appropriate national bodies.

The latest published survey report can be download here - Otter Survey 2009-2010 (PDF 1.39 MB)

Artificial Otter Holts

Five artificial log pile otter holts have been built by the Essex Biodiversity Project at appropriate sites across the county. In addition, other projects and organisations have installed log pile holts.

We can provide guidance and practical assistance with siting and construction of otter holts. Please contact Mark Iley

Chelmer and Blackwater Canal Pennywort Project

Essex Biodiversity Project supports clearance work by contractors and volunteer groups to remove this alien, invasive aquatic plant.

Pennywort forms dense mats that float on surface of streams and ponds. It is a problem because it uses up the available oxygen in the water, which in turn kills fish and invertebrates; it crowds out the native plants and chokes up drainage systems. This has an impact upon Otters by reducing their food supply.

Further information

For more information on the  Otter click this link

Essex Rivers Hub Website

A new interactive website has been launched to help people discover, enjoy, value, get involved and improve their local rivers to get the most from the water environment.

There is more going on than meets the eye on the rivers in Essex and now people can discover for themselves exactly what that is.

The new Essex Rivers Hub, as the site is known, has been developed as a joint project between Essex Wildlife Trust and the Environment Agency.

“We have been carrying out walkover surveys along many Essex rivers to establish what issues there are and how we can solve them,” said Mark Iley from Essex Wildlife Trust.

“We wanted to share this information with as many people as possible, and that is how the Hub concept was born.”

By hovering over one of the rivers a list of complete, planned and ongoing projects will appear with details on each