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Last Updated: Tuesday, 17 April 2007, 23:18 GMT 00:18 UK
Otter numbers 'on the increase'
otters
There are now about 8,000 otters in Scotland
A study has shown that Scotland's otter population is recovering well after falling sharply over the last 40 years.

The devastation of river fish stocks by chemicals and pollution in the 1960s and 1970s saw the animals vanish from many parts of the country.

But a survey by Scottish Natural Heritage found otters were being spotted in parts of the country where they had been absent for years.

However, otters remain very rare and are strictly protected by European law.

The two-year research project shows there are now around 8,000 otters spread across virtually every part of Scotland, including water courses in Aberdeen and the River Clyde.

Scotland is home to the majority of British otters, and has one of the biggest populations of the mammal in Europe.

Fresh water

They are most common on the West Highland coast, the Western Isles and Shetland.

Otters live mainly on a diet of fish including eels, salmon and trout, but also often eat crabs, frogs, small mammals and ducks.

They can live beside the sea or fresh water habitats like rivers, lochs and marshes but coastal otters must wash their fur regularly in fresh water to maintain its waterproofing quality.

It was made illegal to kill otters in 1981. They had previously been hunted for sport, their fur, and because they were thought to kill game birds and fish.




VIDEO AND AUDIO NEWS
Otters playing in their natural environment



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Cleaned-up Clyde attracts otters
20 Sep 05 |  Scotland

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