ONE of the UK’s most charismatic mammals, has made itself at home in the Cotswolds.

An otter has been spotted on the Lower Mill Estate in the Cotswold Water Park, near Cirencester.

It hasn’t just been making use of the rivers, ponds, lakes and reedbeds in the wilder parts of the Estate, but also those right in the heart of the development, a mere whiskers length from humans and houses.

Over the last 20 years Lower Mill Estate has created numerous lakes, ditches, ponds and reedbeds across the Estate which provide perfect habitat for these elusive and nocturnal mammals to move through.

Regular surveys have been carried out to look for otter spraint (droppings) that they leave in prominent locations around waterside locations to mark their territory.

These are now turning up with greater frequency in the villages on the Estate and are being found under bridges and on weirs, all just a short distance from the waterside properties.

Most recently Estate staff have managed to capture footage of one of these marvellous semi-aquatic mammals right under a bridge in the main development.

The footage captured at night on a trailcam shows an otter leaving the River Thames in the development, having a good look at the camera, before sliding back into the river and heading off through the development.

Piles of spraint in the same location suggest otters are regular visitors to this location.

As well as creating large areas of suitable wetland habitat for otters and other wildlife, Lower Mill Estate has so far installed four artificial otter holts (homes) at various locations around the site, with more planned in the near future.

Dr Phoebe Carter, Chief Ecologist for Habitat First Group says: “Otters are one of the UKs most enigmatic mammals but as a result of the use of organochlorine pesticides in the 50s and 60s their numbers plummeted dramatically.

“Nature conservation is key to the Habitat First Group who focus on building alongside nature.

“We are very proud that we have created an environment at Lower Mill Estate that is helping to protect these amazing mammals.”