Otters: Gosforth Nature Reserve Journal May 2023

In this new series of blogs, we will explore monthly highlights of the reserve’s secretive residents. This week, we will take a look at the lives of our resident Otters.

We are very fortunate to have otters in Gosforth Nature Reserve. If you get a glimpse of one it will probably be the highlight of your visit. I only occasionally see an otter in the reserve but I have been following them for the last four years using trail cameras Most of the recordings are made at night, although the otters are active in daytime in the quieter corners of the reserve. Given their diet and lifestyle, there is no particular reason why otters should be nocturnal but after centuries of human persecution it is the easiest way for them to avoid trouble. This was the resident female and her two cubs in daylight earlier this month. One cub always keeps close and the other usually lags behind.

Unlike most British mammals, otters are non-seasonal breeders. Fox and Badger cubs are born in late winter, but otter cubs can be born throughout the year. The cubs in the reserve at present were born last summer and are now nearly full-grown. Their mother is already courting, as shown in the next video. It starts with the female apparently confronting a dog otter at the water’s edge. She chased him in and out of the water. When she followed him a second time, he jumped onto the bank just as one of the cubs appeared. The two adult otters then swam off together leaving the cubs anxious and squeaking on the bank. I think the female was showing her interest, but the dog was unsure of her intentions. The female is ready to mate again, and cubs will leave her soon to make their way into the world.

Otters lead mainly solitary lives. Males and females rarely interact, other than at courtship and mating time, and the female brings up her cubs alone. A dog otter’s territory overlaps that of several females and otters mark their territories by scent-marking, especially with spraint (otter poo). This last video shows the dog last week, coming out to check his messages and leaving his own.

I’ll continue to keep an eye on the otters with the trail cameras and post an update when there is news.

Visit our YouTube Channel, for more videos of the elusive residents of Gosforth Nature Reserve!

Christopher Wren
Local Naturalist and Volunteer

Christopher Wren is a volunteer in Gosforth Nature Reserve and a local naturalist, interested in most areas of natural history, especially mammals and using trail cameras to study their behaviour.

Visit Chris’ blog for more updates on North East’s wildlife – TrogTrogBlog