World Otter Day is celebrated across the globe every year on 27th May in order to raise awareness of the dangerous faced by these wonderful creatures and to educate people on how to help protect their natural habitats. As one of literature’s most famous otters is from Devon and otters have been known to frequent many of the region’s river areas, here are some facts about Tarka and his fellow otters.
Sadly, many of the events that were planned in the region for World Otter Day have had to be cancelled or postponed, but that doesn’t mean that you can’t still celebrate these marvellous creatures!
Did you know…
- There are 13 different species of otter throughout the world and all thirteen of them are on the Red List of Threatened Species
- It has been observed that otters like to use rocks to crack open clams and other seafood, each one has a favourite rock that they store in the loose skin under their armpits!
- Oh and those rocks? Otters like to play with them! If you’re lucky enough to see an otter at play, you’ll likely spot them juggling with their rocks
- Otters eat up to 25% of their body weight in food every day! That’s a lot of food! Typically, they eat small sea creatures like clams, mussels and crabs.
- Though otters like to live in wet areas like rivers and oceans, they don’t actually have a layer of blubber like most marine mammals, they don’t get cold though, otters have the thickest fur of all furry animals and this is the reason why many of them are hunted.
- Because their fur is too thick when they’re born, baby otters can’t swim under water so you’ll often spot them floating while their mother hunts. Baby otters are called pups and stay with their mothers until they’re around 6 months old.
- Depending on the species, some otters live alone while others stick to groups, when they want to sleep, they wrap themselves in seaweed or moss and hold hands so they float together.
- Speaking of holding hands when they sleep, the name for a group of resting otters is a raft!
- River otters can hold their breath for up to 8 minutes under water! Sea otters can hold theirs for five minutes.
Tarka and the other otters you can find in the UK are European Otters and are part of the mistelid family, of which there are seven different species living in the wild in the British Isles. Otters looked like they were going to become extinct in the UK back in the 1950s but thanks to a ban on hunting and a number of reintroduction programmes, there are now more of them in British rivers than ever before.
Where to find otters in Devon
Tarka the Otter’s adventure takes place in North Devon and many of the places along the Tarka Trail which is named after him features the places that he journeys around in the book. There are otters that have been spotted around the River Torridge which can be accessed via the Tarka Trail, that’s not the only place they’ve been seen though. Otters can be found in all of Devon’s rivers including the River axe, the River Exe and even in places like Exeter. In fact, Cricklepit Mill is one of the best places in to spot otters, which is in the heart of Exeter city centre.
If you want to go out looking for otters, there are some things you need to remember. Firstly, they are wild animals and are very elusive, the best chance you have of seeing one is to be very quiet, very still and very patient. If you do see one, do not approach it, merely enjoy it from afar.
Want to find out more about Otters and how you can help keep them safe? Visit https://www.otter.org/