The first video footage of an otter in Sheffield’s River Don has been captured by conservationists.
The blink-and-you’ll-miss-it glimpse of the animal was captured on a camera trap funded by the Sheffield and Rotherham Wildlife Trust’s Otterly Amazing appeal.
Despite the otter barely being on screen for three seconds, the trust says it leaves no doubt that the shy and elusive creatures have set up home in the River Don.
The clip is the first significant milestone in the two-year Nature Counts project, made possible using £99,800 from the Heritage Lottery Fund, to record animals and plants species across Sheffield.
The public have been encouraged to help by becoming ‘citizen scientists’.
Paul Richards, engagement officer for Nature Counts, said: “It is such a thrill to see a real-life otter on one of the cameras.
“We’ve seen a lot of evidence that they are around, like tracks and droppings, but this is the first concrete evidence showing the animal itself.
“We’ve now repositioned the cameras to get some better footage to help us find out more about how many there are and what they’re doing.”
As part of the Nature Counts project, 14 volunteers have been recruited and trained to help identify signs of otters and map their presence along Sheffield’s rivers.
It is not known exactly how many otters there are in the UK, although the figure has plummeted since the 1950s.
By the 1970s the creatures were virtually absent from much of England and Wales, with a few strongholds remaining in Scotland.
Otters were brought back from the brink of extinction through a breeding programme in the 1980s and 1990s. Signs that otters were returning to Sheffield were first spotted 10 years ago.
Project manager Dr Nicky Rivers said: “We would like to thank the public and our funders for their support of the Otterly Amazing appeal and are glad we can report some initial results.”
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