Otter spotted on stretch of river in Wigan
One of our most appealing wild animals has been seen in the town.
The otter was seen on a stretch of the River Douglas flowing through the town by Wigan Observer reader Ray Sims.
Mr Sims saw the creature on a morning walk and managed to identify it as the animal made famous by the children’s book Tarka the Otter.
Intriguingly the reason for the upturn in the animal’s fortunes is not particularly well understood by wildlife experts.
Mark Champion, Wigan projects manager for the Lancashire Wildlife Trust (LWT), said: “There are occasional records of otters in Wigan but they are still not seen very often.
“They are beginning to recolonise and that is newsworthy. It is still not just a case of going down to the river and seeing one.
“One thing that would be good about the return of otters is that they would replace mink. They eat similar food like fish so it might as well be our native otter rather than the American mink.
“It was the mink that pushed the otter into quieter corners and made it very rare, but now suddenly otters seem to be coming back, recolonising areas and pushing the mink out again. There are lots of theories and possibilities but nobody really knows why this is.
“This shows the value of the habitats within Wigan and the importance of maintaining the links between sites.
“We spend a lot of time in conservation trying to maintain the network of green spaces to allow the movement of wildlife between them. This is another good opportunity to raise the profile of that work.”
Mr Champion said anyone who is walking by a river in Wigan and spots an aquatic mammal can tell if they have seen an otter or a mink by looking at the colour of it and, if they can get close enough or have a good enough camera to take high-quality pictures, by the shape of its head.
Otters are a coffee-coloured animal with a pale underside whereas mink are a chestnut-brown colour.
Otters also have much broader heads than mink.
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