By Sam Rkaina, Local Government Reporter / firstname.lastname@example.org
THERE are plenty of people who move from the countryside to the big city – now it would seem otters are following the trend.
Wildlife experts believe Bristol is the largest city to be home to the semi-aquatic mammals after a bevy was discovered living at Harbourside.
Traditionally otters stick to more rural areas, and although they have been found in in places like Brislington Brook and Frome this latest discovery is the most built up part of the city they have been seen in.
The otters were discovered after hidden cameras were set up at a number of locations on the harbour.
Otters are nocturnal so they are unlikely to be spotted during the day, if at all.
The cameras are motion sensitive, which meant they also took footage of birds or falling leaves.
But eventually they picked up a few seconds of precious footage of an otter looking at the camera, then marking his territory before running off.
It all started three years ago, when field ecologist Phil Quinn was contracted by the council to carry out a survey of the wildlife in the harbourside waters.
He said: “They wanted a general overview of the dockside, which has a lot of unusual birds and plants.
“Then we found otter droppings and couldn’t believe it.”
Mr Quinn then set about tracking down the elusive otters, and set up the cameras in the hope of striking lucky.
He said: “It took four weeks to see them. If you asked the majority of ecologists they are used to seeing them in country locations like Dartmoor. This is extremely unexpected.
“As far as I’m aware this is the biggest city they’ve been found in.”
Mr Quinn believes the otters were attracted to the centre for the large number and variety of fish in the harbourside waters.
It also helps that the water quality has been improved in recent years due to efforts by Bristol City Council.
Council leader Barbara Janke said: “We are very excited. The water quality has been a cause of concern so we have had a long term project with boat owners and businesses to look at how they dispose of their waste.
“To have otters in the centre of the city is a fantastic message to send about Bristol.”