One of the biggest wildlife success stories of the past 30 years has to be the reintroduction of the river otter to the UK. When river quality started to improve after organochlorine farm chemicals were banned in the 1980s, the Otter Trust got to work releasing animals at selected sites across the country. Today, there are few river systems in Britain that haven’t been recolonised by them.
The flipside to this is that some river and countryside managers now say the programme has proved too successful because in places river otter numbers are out of control, causing problems for fish and other wildlife. Protected status makes the otter one of nature’s untouchables — a killer mustelid with a cast-iron public ‘aah’ rating.
If mink, stoats and weasels were even half as popular as this bigger cousin, shoots and gamekeepers would have real trouble on their hands. Where otters are concerned, the deep affection people have for them means that any call for a cull — no matter how limited or justified — would never ever get off the ground.