Otters in the Brecon Beacons National Park
Otters can be found in and around most of the waterways in the Brecon Beacons National Park.
The otter, one of our favourite mammals, is a naturally shy creature, emerging from cover around dawn and dusk. Much of the rest of the time, it remains in its holt (permanent shelter) or hover (temporary resting place) within its territory, a stretch of fresh water measuring between three and 12 miles.
A holt, where the otter gives birth and rears its young, is usually a well-hidden bankside hole between the roots of trees. Otters will also readily use artifically made sites or other structures that offer seclusion and a quick exit into a stream, river or lake.
It’s fairly easy to tell when otters are around as they leave paw prints called pug marks, with a chunky shape and five toes, unlike dogs, whose prints have four. You may also spot large fish remains and otter faeces, called spraints, which tend to be blue-black, with fish bones and a fishy smell.
Our thriving population of otters indicates the health of our waterways. Otters suffered a severe decline across the UK between 1950 and 1980, but were made a protected species in 1981. Now that they and their holts are protected by international law, they have been recovering. Thanks to improvements in water quality and more sympathetic management of banksides, this charismatic, fish-eating mammal can now even be seen in Brecon, Crickhowell and Llangynidr, where the River Usk flows right through the towns.
Spare a thought for otters when you're choosing your picnic spot – remember, the river bank is their home! Naturally, they suffer from our litter and pollution, so please do your best to leave the waterway as you find it, if not better.