Otters are very popular animals, given their playful personality and endearing fluffy faces. They are slowly becoming more populous as well, with otters found across the UK since a ban on otter hunting and certain pesticides in the 1970s. Yet despite the love for otters, they can be very hard to spot in the wild given their status as a stealthy predator. Whilst otters are associated more with Scotland and Wales, they can also be found in Suffolk but you have to look hard to find them.
Otters can be spotted throughout the year and are present in nearly every river in the county. Still, seeing a wild otter remains a challenge, so we have narrowed down some of the best places to begin your search.
Elusive otters have been spied at Lackford Lakes, one of many Suffolk Wildlife Trust reserves in the county. There have been occasional otter sightings at the Hawker pool so this is a good starting point.
In 2015 while RSPB Minsmere hosted BBC Springwatch for a second year, there was a feature on the reserve’s resident otters. The best place to spot them is on the Island Mere where there is a hide ideal for settling down in as you wait for an otter to wander into view.
Snape Marshes is a good place for looking for otters, with an artificial holt built to encourage their breeding in the area in 2009. Snape Marshes is managed by the Suffolk Wildlife Trust and this effort was one project which was part of a two year habitat restoration that also included restoring dyke infrastructure, installing a cattle pound and purchasing a mower to remove rank vegetation from meadows. There are several walking routes around Snape Marshes, or you can always take a River Trip to try a see them from a different vantage point.
The River Waveney Study Centre in north Suffolk was a former Otter Trust site, however it remains a good place to try and spy an otter. The Centre is located in Earsham but the River Waveney flows all the way out to sea. Wander alongside the river and keep a sharp eye out for as you search for otters.
Did you know?
The latin name for an otter is lutra lutra
Otters are one of the top predators in the UK, feeding on fish, waterbirds, amphibians and crustaceans
They live in underground burrows called holts
Otter pups grow quickly, and will be in the water by the time they are 10 weeks old
Otters love fresh and saltwater equally, and can be found inland as well as in coastal areas
We also have some special tips if you’re on the lookout for an otter. The key, as with all animals, is patience. Find yourself a comfortable spot overlooking a pool or river which otters regularly visit and then it's a waiting game. Make sure to watch other wildlife and the scenery. If a flock of birds fly up or if reedbeds start to rustle it could mean an otter is on the move. As they spend a lot of time underwater keep an eye out for bubbles or movements in the water. Of course, if all else fails, it is much easier to spot the tracks of an otter as these are far less elusive. You can look for pawprints in mud - identifiable by their five webbed toes, and check on tree roots and rocks for spraints (a nicer word for otter poo) which they use to mark their territories.