Here at Center Parcs, we get pretty excited when new baby animals arrive, when guests spot the first hatchings of the year, or when there are tiny animals being looked after. We’re all a bit animal mad.
So you can imagine our excitement when Longleat Forest snapped its first ever sighting of everyone’s favourite member of the weasel family – the otter!
No, it’s not the greatest photo in the world. But this shot (below left) was taken by one of our trail camera when it senses movement on the night of 7th May. Disappointed? Take a look at this guy instead:
Whilst Longleat Forest, like all our Villages, is thriving with wildlife, otters have never made an appearance before now. After rumours, unconfirmed sightings and the discovery of otter footprint, two trail cameras were set up. After nearly two weeks, we finally snapped two pictures of the otter, taken about an hour apart, suggesting he (or she) is actively hunting for food.
The presence of otters is great news for Longleat – it shows that the forest has achieved a truly natural woodland habitat worthy of a very discerning creature. The lake system at Longleat Forest has been in place for 20 years and covered 16.5 hectares with plenty of fish – this is probably why the otters have turned up!
All about otters
- Otters are playful animals and one of few species that engage in various behaviours for sheer enjoyment, such as making waterslides on river banks!
- The otter became rare across Europe in the second half of the 20th century, primarily due to pollution and hunting – they disappeared from England apart from in the West Country and some parts of Northern England.
- Through an intensive species rescue programme, the Environment agency announced that otters had returned to every county in England!
- Otters are one of our top predators, feeding on fish, waterbirds, amphibians and crustaceans.
- Otters have their babies, ‘cubs’, in underground burrows.
- Otter cubs are excellent little swimmers, entering the water at just 10 weeks of age.
- Although excellent swimmers, they cannot hold their breath for very long, and their average dive is only about 30 seconds long.
- Otters communicate with each other using noises such as whistles, birdlike ‘twittering’ and spitting.
- There are types of otters that live in fresh water (rivers and lakes), and sea otters, which live in saltwater.
- The sea otter has a special ‘pocket’ under each foreleg where they store food to bring to the surface, as well as their own personal rock that they use to break open shellfish.
- Sea otters also hold hands with their mate in the night so they don’t float apart while sleeping.