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Wild Otter caught on camera in the New Forest!

Russ writes:

Since 2016 we have been operating two remote infrared trail cameras in the New Forest (under Forestry England licence), in order to better understand the distribution and behaviour of mammals, especially those that are mostly nocturnal. The highlight of this project to date has been the capture of several Pine Marten images, which was summarised in this recent WNF blog.

One of the cameras has been deployed at a constant-effort site over multiple years, revealing interesting insights into all five New Forest deer species (we’ll update on that project later this year). On 18 Aug I took the gravel bike out for a spin to check that camera, and also scout out a location a couple of kilometres from the area where we have previously recorded Pine Martens, with a view to redeploying the second camera there - this revealed some interesting spraints on a log next to a forest stream, so I set up the camera with a field of view covering the log and a few metres either side.

I revisited the site on 04 Sept and downloaded the images to my laptop for immediate viewing. Apart from a few deer and ponies, there was little of note until the previous evening (03 Sept), when two Fallow Deer crossed the log at 2020 hrs and were followed by a trio of Red Deer hinds at 2028 hrs, which then lingered to feed on the leaves of a Hawthorn.

After a few seconds one of the Red Deer was spooked by something in the darkness, and 20 seconds later a distinctive shape appeared on the log – it was an Otter! One of the remaining deer immediately went to investigate, causing the Otter to bound along and then off the log. It circled around and was back on the log ten seconds later, before it and the deer disappeared into the darkness. The still images below show some of the action.

Otters are well established along the New Forest coast (e.g. see image below) but are rarely encountered in the New Forest interior. The location of this latest record is about 12 km from the coast, and it seems likely that the Otter was moving upriver in search of Sea Trout following recent rainfall.

This Otter was photographed at the New Forest coast on 26 July 2020 by Clayton Jones

We’re delighted to have captured a wild Otter on camera, especially with Red Deer in the same shot, which is probably unique in a New Forest context! It's amazing to think that just 48 hours earlier I had been watching a couple of distant White-tailed Eagles from the New Forest coast! Maybe at some point in the future we’ll be seeing Beavers, Wild Boar and maybe even Lynx on our New Forest trail cameras…..

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