By Sam Rkaina, Local Government Reporter
A GROUP of otters are the latest addition to Bristol’s floating harbour.
Nature officers at the Bristol City Council first became aware of the discovery late last year when they discovered otter droppings.
They then commissioned a survey including placing a hidden camera, which has confirmed that otters are indeed living in and around the floating harbour.
While they knew otters were making their way into the city with evidence along rivers such as the Frome, Trym and Brislington Brook, they were surprised to find them right in the city centre and believe they must be one of the most urban populations of otter in the country.
They now plan to undertake further surveys of other rivers in the city, ensure the otters are protected from development work and continue to encourage the greening of the docks through initiatives such as floating reedbeds to make it better for otters and other wildlife.
Welcoming the discovery, wildlife television presenter and President of Avon Wildlife Trust Simon King said: “The return of otters to the urban waterways of Bristol is testament to the improved the cleanliness of the rivers and docklands.
“This, together with improved waterside habitats has encouraged one of the nation’s best-loved creatures to come home after an absence of many decades.”
Otters almost disappeared from England in the 1970s, but have since recovered in recent years due to a ban on harmful pesticides, legal protection and an improvement in water quality bringing fish back to rivers.
The floating harbour is a good example of this. The water quality has improved – with major investment from Wessex Water to the drainage infrastructure of the city – and it now supports a good fish population with species such as roach, bream and perch present, which will be
providing a good food source for the otters.
Other improvements include working with boat owners to reduce threats of pollution, taking action against wrongly connected drainage, cutting down invasive weeds along rivers, and clearing blockages in sewers from fats and grease from food outlets.
Council leader Barbara Janke said: “The return of otters to our waterways is very welcome news, and further evidence of Bristol’s green credentials.
“By cleaning up our harbour and improving our waterside habitats, we have been able to create an environment where wildlife can thrive right in the heart of the city.”