16 November 2012: TV conservationist Chris Packham has backed a local campaign to stop a road devastating an area popular with otters.
New images and videos released by local residents show a large otter population along the river Lune. The Council, which is keen to push ahead with the new road, has played down the presence of the internationally protected species in a recent planning examination for the road, questioning whether it was present at all.
Otter experts have hailed the new evidence of up to 14 otters living and breeding on the Lune as being of county and probably national significance. Until recently, very few of the animals had been recorded in the area. The creation of better conditions for otters has been identified as a local conservation priority and subsequent action to improve water quality on the Lune has clearly lead to rapid results.
The animals’ habitat is now threatened by the road plans. This includes the destruction of part of a local wood, used by otters as shelter from high water and for rest. A new road bridge is also to be built over the river. The council claims it has conducted surveys but did not provide evidence of the extent of the otter population to the recent planning examination, the results of which are awaited.
Unlike the council’s surveys, when the Lancaster Guardian visited the site, their reporter was able to find the otters without any trouble, saying: "I saw first hand that the river has a permanent and growing otter population. I saw otters play fighting and rolling around with each other, and climbing on the small boat moored in the boathouse."
Chris Packham, wildlife expert and presenter of ‘Autumnwatch’ on BBC TV has applauded the campaigners’ work, telling the newspaper: "This sounds like a very good example of concerned local conservationists essentially empowering themselves to protect these wonderful animals. I salute them and wish them the very best of success.
"It is critical that every such case is democratically but ferociously fought to the benefit of our battered and beleaguered wildlife. Otters are extremely vulnerable to becoming road casualties, indeed this is hampering the recovery of the former ranges and repopulation."
Local residents have set up a campaign page on Facebook to support the protection of the otters – Save the Otters on the Lune
These otter photos were taken on the Lune in September and October 2012 by Stan Parrot: http://www.polypics.co.uk