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A new home for Suffolk's otters
By Andrew Woodger
BBC Suffolk


New otter home on Suffolk river

An artificial otter holt has been built to encourage breeding on a Suffolk nature reserve.

It's on the banks of the River Alde at the Suffolk Wildlife Trust's Snape Marshes site.

The holt was built using money from the Carillion Highways Maintenance/Suffolk Highways Partnership.

"This is the perfect spot - there's such a wonderful feel about this reserve," said Steve Garrod on behalf of the Carillion Natural Habitats Fund.

"The basic idea is to build it up into a 8x4 foot holt with four inter-connecting compartments," said Mick Wright, Snape Marshes reserve manager, talking on BBC Suffolk's Mark Murphy Breakfast Show.

"It'll look like a big pile of twigs. As long as we end up making this nice and dry, black and comfy, they'll be in a really safe place."

The Trust has gained money from the Carillion which is a corporate member of the wildlife trust. Their money was used to lever in a further £30,000 from other bodies including Natural England.

British otter
A British (aka European) otter at the Otter Trust near Bungay

They're undertaking a two year habitat restoration program of which the holt construction is one project.

Other projects include restoring dyke infrastructure, installing a cattle pound and purchasing a mower to remove rank vegetation from existing meadows.

A fence has been built around the otter holt to keep cattle away.

The Otter Trust at Earsham near Bungay carried out a successful breeding programme. It opened in 1971, but declared it had completed its mission in 2006.

It now concentrates on conservation work, but you can look at archive photos of its work in our 2006 Otter Trust gallery .

The Suffolk Wildlife Trust says it's impossible to estimate the number of otters in the wild. The animal is a protected species, but it's not considered to be endangered.

Tales from the riverbank

Mick Wright of the Suffolk Wildlife Trust
Mick Wright at Snape Marshes - one of 50 Suffolk Wildlife Trust reserves

The otters will have plenty to eat at Snape Marshes according to Mick Wright:

"There is plenty of vegetation for them during the day and we've got plenty of fresh clean water to keep their fur clear of the salt, because they'll be doing a lot of fishing in the Alde itself.

"We won't look inside the holt, but we'll soon find out that they're there because they create runs and slides from the water and their droppings will have bones in or fish scales.

"They're mostly a nocturnal animal, but I've seen them during the day several times. People walking from Snape Maltings have often seen them on the paths with their young."

As always, bodies such as Suffolk Wildlife Trust rely on people giving up their time. The Trust has around 1000 people who volunteer.

Otter holt at Snape Marshes, Suffolk
The man-made holt mimics the sort of thing otters would build in the wild

"After days out doing voluntary work at various Trust reserves, we felt it would be good to have continuity at one site and see the changes our contribution makes," said Steve Garrod.

"We are delighted to be helping build the area's first otter holt."

"I couldn't manage my reserves without volunteers and Carillion have helped us out on a lot of work parties," said Mick Wright.

"We have a lot of fun together. It really is a good giggle."

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