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Unexpected otter cubs at Slimbridge Wetland Centre this winter

Posted on 19 Dec 2018

Slimbridge Wetland Centre has this week discovered two surprisingly young wild otter cubs living on the northern part of the nature reserve.

Eurasian otters usually breed in the spring but this pair have chosen to breed later in the year with the cubs being born in autumn rather than the summer.

The three month old cubs are much smaller than that adults which can grow up to 1.3 meters in length. Eurasian otters live in pristine wetland habitats such as clean rivers and reedbeds where they feed predominantly on fish.

Scott Petrek, Reserve Warden at Slimbridge said “We’re really excited to see otter cubs on the reserve. Although Eurasian otters have bred on the reserve for the last few years we hadn’t seen much activity from them over the last couple of months so this may be why!”

WWT Slimbridge installed camera traps at various locations around the nature reserve which are trigged by any movement. The team check the camera trap video footage each week to see what mammals are about.

Scott said “When we first saw the footage taken on 4 December 2018 we thought – this can’t be right as the cubs look smaller than usual. You can watch them sniffing and messing about in the reedbed looking fit and healthy. We’re feeling hopeful that they will survive the winter”.

Otters are the top predators in a wetland environment and so the presence of them indicates that the wetland habitat at Slimbridge is in great condition.

Scott said “We manage the water bodies, reedbeds and wet grassland here at Slimbridge to maximise the benefits to wildlife – not just for birds but for mammals, fish, amphibians and invertebrates too. We create a mosaic of habitats to help animals find food, shelter and nesting areas”.

Eurasian otters are seldom seen in the UK because of their secretive nature and due to a serious population decline in the 1950s due to water pollution by agricultural chemicals.

The population of Eurasian otters is steadily increasing in the UK but they are still under threat from habitat loss due to the drainage of wetlands, habitat fragmentation – meaning there are limited safe corridors of wetland to travel through to reach new territories, water pollution and collision with vehicles.

Slimbridge is home to 325 hectares of world class wetland which is managed as a safe haven for wildlife including the Eurasian otter.

Slimbridge also have three captive adult North American otters named Flo, Minnie and Haha, with daily otter feeds from our experts to inspire visitors to care for wetlands and their wildlife.