Otters are part of natural heritage

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LIKE Roger Fleming I look forward to the start of each new season and the ability to enjoy many happy hours angling along the banks of the River Stour (River season approaches, June 7).

I was, however, disappointed by his article that chose to single out and demonise otters.

Fish are natural prey for many animals including birds and other fish. In stating that “otters were introduced into the Stour a few years ago”, Roger makes two mistakes.

Use of the word “introduced” implies that otters are not part of the naturally occurring fauna of the Stour valley.

This, of course, is not the case. Otters have always belonged to the Suffolk landscape, absent only for a period after the early 1970s when they tragically became functionally extinct.

Whilst it is true a low number of otters were reintroduced to selected locations across East Anglia, this occurred during the period 1983-99 and none of those animals will be alive today.

The re-colonisation of our waterways has been a natural process aided, in part, by the removal of harmful, environmentally persistent, pesticides from agricultural use.

When Roger worries that fish are being “devastated”, he creates an image of river corridors teaming with marauding hoards of hungry predators.

Otters are territorial and solitary animals maintaining ranges many miles in length. Knowing this aspect of otter behaviour, it is apparent that no single range will hold more than one adult at any time.

Otters have been regular visitors to the Sudbury area for over a decade now and as the following column by Sudbury and Melford District Angling Association informs us: “Tench and bream abound on the Priory, Friars and Pecks Meadows, with the odd double-figure carp.”

Otters do eat fish and I do not expect all anglers to love them, but would urge all to accept the otter as part of our natural heritage.

Opinions are best founded on factual evidence, and inflammatory language, as used by Mr Fleming, is at best misleading.

It would be better to direct attention towards non-native alien species that do threaten the ecological stability of our waterways.

Let us remember that mink also take fish; signal and narrow-clawed crayfish undoubtedly impact spawning success and I fear it probable fish populations will soon face a new threat from the “killer shrimp”.

LES COUSINS

Christopher Lane

Sudbury