The return of otters to the River Welland in Harborough is an indicator that water quality is improving, according to the trust helping to protect it.
The town has been buzzing with tales of the riverbank in recent weeks, with several people reporting sightings of two otters on a stretch of the river between the Northampton Road bridge and the rear of the Aldi supermarket. And a number of readers fortunate enough to snap the creatures have sent their photographs and video footage to the Mail.
The Welland River Trust, which is working on a £500,000 project to improve the river channel through the town centre to attract more wildlife, said the presence of otters is a good sign.
Sam Gandy, a research intern for the trust, based at the University of Leicester, said: “Otters are apex predators so they are an indicator of the health of the river. It shows there are enough fish in the river to support them.
“Most fish in UK rivers are carnivorous so have the potential to be very destructive in high numbers. Otters perform a vital service keeping numbers down so they are a very important part of the river’s ecosystem.”
Otters had all but disappeared from the county by the 1970s but a 2010 survey by the Environment Agency revealed they were returning.
The Mail captured footage of otters playing on ice in January 2012 and last month Harborough man James Burman shot an amazing video of two of the mammals fighting in the river.
Ailsa Attenborough got footage of one of the otters hunting near the Northampton Road bridge on Saturday.
She told the Mail: “I was just walking through St Mary’s Place and saw other people looking at the river. The otter was actively hunting and there were a few people watching.”
Paramedic Darren Grist also managed to snap some photographs while he was walking through town.
He said: “I was just checking out the height of the river from the bridge near St Mary’s Place when I caught the otter going about its business.
“It made my day.”
Mark and Sue Plowright, of Charles Street, Harborough, also sent the Mail pictures after seeing one of the otters on Saturday. Mark said: “It is so good to see how clean the Welland must be these days.
“In all my life I never expected to see otters in Market Harborough. If it had not been for a beautiful kingfisher we stopped to look at, we would not have had this great experience.”