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Otters return to the River Mersey

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Otters have returned to the River Mersey, which was once one of the most polluted areas of water in Europe.

The Forestry Commission is creating viewing areas so the public can spot the secretive mammals more easily after otter pawprints were discovered alongside the river near Fiddlers Ferry. Forest rangers photographed the marks in the mud and discovered otter dropping which confirmed a dramatic reversal in fortunes for the area.

Now the Forestry Commission, which is also planning to create new homes to encourage the aquatic animals, wants nature lovers to report any otter sightings.

Forest ranger Duncan MacNaughton, who helps maintain and monitor Forestry Commission land around the area, said:

“To see evidence of otters returning to the estuary is incredibly exciting for everyone interested in nature conservation because it will have been more than 30 years since we have seen them there.

“So far we’ve seen pawprints, but not an actual otter. If anyone could capture a photograph of an otter on the site that would confirm once and for all that otters have made a comeback.”

Less than 30 years ago, the River Mersey was too polluted to sustain a large range of wildlife, but a major clean-up operation – led for 25 years by the Mersey Basin Campaign – followed and animals have been gradually returning to the water.

Otters will only live in clean water and evidence of their arrival follows the return of salmon to the area. Now the Forestry Commission is doing what it can to encourage wildlife on the land it manages.

Duncan said:

“It will be difficult to spot the otters because they are shy animals, but there is always a chance someone could see them wandering around.

“There is so much wildlife on people’s doorsteps that we want to encourage them to get out and see it for themselves. They can also help us record sightings in the area.”

Four species of owl (barn, little, short-eared and long-eared) have also been seen around the area near Fiddlers Ferry so there is plenty for nature lovers to look out for.

If you spot – and photograph – an otter along the River Mersey then post your photographs on the Forestry Commission’s dedicated facebook page facebook/

Notes to Editor:

The Forestry Commission is the government department responsible in England for protecting, expanding and promoting the sustainable management of woods and forests and increasing their value to society and the environment.  Forestry makes a real contribution to sustainable development, providing social and environmental benefits arising from planting and managing attractive, as well as productive, woodlands.  Further information can be found at

Media Contact: Richard Topley on 01606 32499 or Andrew Moores on 01606 888111