Otters spotted in the heart of Birmingham spark largest-ever survey

The largest-ever survey of the otter population in the West Midlands is being carried out by waterways and well-being charity Canal & River Trust, after sightings of the protected animals in the heart of Birmingham.

The survey will establish where otters, once hunted to the brink of extinction, have been making a surprising come-back.  Initial research suggests that the animals are making use of the region’s canals for the first time since the man-made waterways were built in the industrial revolution.

Since the 1950s the number of otters on Britain’s rivers have been in decline due to a combination of habitat loss, persecution and the use of pesticides.  Over recent years otter numbers have been making a comeback due to better water quality and efforts to improve their habitats.  There is now evidence of otter territories being found in the heart of Birmingham, in the canal near to Brindleyplace.

The Canal & River Trust is calling on local people to get involved in the survey which is taking place on the 22nd and 23rd February, and will involve walking a stretch of towpath looking for signs of otters – specifically otter droppings, known as spraint, and ‘latrines’ – areas where the animals mark their territory.  Otters have large territories, so spraints will be sent off for DNA analysis to identify the otter, including if it is male or female.

Tom Wilding, environmental scientist for the Canal & River Trust, said: “Our previous survey helped us identify a number of otters living across the West Midlands region using our canals. This year we are hoping to find that these otters are still here and that we have even more living along and using our waterways.

The fact that we’re even talking about the possibility of otters on the West Midlands’ formerly industrial canals is incredible and a real testament to all the hard work that’s gone in to improving water quality in the region.  It’s amazing that they’re now clean enough to sustain otter populations for the first time since the Industrial Revolution.  Today these canals are vital green corridors which provide countless habitats for wildlife as well as giving local people beautiful spaces green spaces right in the heart of city centre.

No experience is required as a short training session will be given.  Anyone interested in helping out with the survey can register their interest by emailing

To find out more about the work of the Canal & River Trust, including how you can support through volunteering or making a donation, go to