BRITAIN'S otter population has staged a tremendous fightback in the past 25 years, increasing their numbers five-fold, English Nature announced today.
Back in the 1970s, the otter - one of our best-loved wild creatures - was virtually extinct over large areas of the country. Now, it is making a comeback in some most unlikely areas, including towns and big cities dissected by rivers or canal systems.
Environment Agency scientist Andrew Crawford, who wrote the report, says: "The otter is on the road to recovery. Despite the good news, we can't become complacent. We will need to concentrate on ways to protect the otter from the motorcar, which continues to be one of the biggest threats."
For many years, environmentalists and animal rights groups blamed hunting - banned decades ago - and gamekeepers for causing the fall in otter numbers. But it is now known to have been caused by pesticides like aldrin and dieldrin, which also brought about a catastrophic collapse in the hawk population in the 1950s.
In the Yorkshire Dales, voluntary workers have built artificial "holts" - otter dens - in Upper Wharfedale and are eagerly awaiting the animal's return. Specimens have been sighted in the middle stretches near Ilkley and in the Lune Valley to the west.