Review published on April 30, 2017.
Otters are one of our apex predators in the UK, but after the Second World War, they almost went extinct due to environmental and other pressures. They have slowly clawed their way back as the rivers and streams that they live in became less polluted. The fact that they can now be found in every county in the land is a conservation success and should be applauded. They are almost mythical though, they are seldom glimpsed, even when going looking for them, you may only hear a splash. You will find evidence that they are sound though, their spraints are fairly visible and you’ll probably come across the scattered remains of supper every now and again.
Even after buying a watermill on a chalkstream in Hampshire, Simon Cooper didn’t expect to see one either. As he moved around the lake and streams that came with his property he began to find the evidence that they were some nearby, but it was finding a family of otters in the mill race, just feet from his desk, that he realised that he was the intruder on their territory. So begins a transitory relationship with this mother and four cubs, as Cooper spent more time watching and following their trial and tribulations of growing up and learning how to swim and feed and playing as you’d expect otters to behave.
Cooper’s daily observations have given us this well-written tale of the elusive creature that is the otter. He has used some artistic licence to write the story of Kuschta and her cubs, how she moved into the lakes, the liaison with the father and how she goes about raising and training them to hunt and survive. The story side is woven in with a raft of solid facts and detail on these fascinating creatures following them through the seasons as they live and thrive around the mill. A really good book on that most evanescent of creatures and a worthy addition to anyone’s natural history library.
Paul Cheney 4/3
The Otters’ Tale by Simon Cooper
William Collins 9780008189716 hbk Mar 2017
Longlisted for the Wainwright Book Prize 2017 – find out more and read an extract
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