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Page last updated at 09:30 GMT, Thursday, 14 January 2010
Numbers of otter deaths doubled in Essex during 2009
Despite the rise in fatalities, there are signs of population growth in Essex

The number of otter deaths in Essex more than doubled in 2009, according to figures from the Essex Wildlife Trust.

There were 11 known otter casualties in the county, as opposed to four in the previous two years.

The Trust's Darren Tansley told BBC Essex most resulted from road deaths or being caught in illegal crayfish traps.

He added that whilst the deaths were a blow to the species in the county, the number of road deaths also suggested an increase in overall numbers.

"We do look at road deaths as a sad event, but also a good indicator that we've got more otters moving around," said the Trust's Water for Wildlife officer.

"So obviously they are going to come into contact with road traffic from time to time, but it is an indicator of an expanding population."


Two of the deaths that have caused particular concern to Darren and his team were a mother and her cub being drowned in an illegal crayfish net in the River Wid.

These type of deaths are becoming an increasing threat to otter populations across the country.

"It had been a bad few weeks anyway because we'd found four otters killed on the roads, but we do expect that over winter," said Darren.

"To find two otters in the same trap was just devastating. The traps in themselves are not illegal and you can buy them over the counter.

"But to actually put them in the rivers you must have a licence from the Environment Agency and they will require a really good reason to put these traps in the river, because in this case it was deadly.

"A licensed trap will always have an otter guard on it that will prohibit the otter from actually getting into the traps.

An example of an illegal crayfish nets
Crayfish nets such as the one found in the River Wid are a real danger

"We're trying to talk to the manufacturers and people that sell these traps to say you shouldn't be supplying them without a guard in the first place."

Darren emphasised the importance for people to report any cases of otter fatalities to either the Essex Wildlife Trust or the Environment Agency.

"They're all taken away for post mortem, which is very important work," he said.

"We need to know what other elements were in the otters environments, such as toxins and parasites, so it's not just finding out how they died."

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