A NATURE charity is appealing for help with its first otter survey this spring which will shape future conservation work.

Durham Wildlife Trust will run the two-day project in April when volunteers will search near waterways for tracks, feeding remains and droppings in order to identify otter territories.

The Environment Agency runs a national study every seven years but Durham Wildlife Trust hopes to assess the population and distribution of otters across the historic County Durham annually.

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Project officer, Vivien Kent, said: “Otters almost went extinct in the 1970s in this county, like the rest of the country, due to a combination of factors largely toxic pesticides and persecution.

“Since pesticides were banned from agriculture in the 1980s they’ve made a steady comeback.

"We know they’ve extended their ranges in County Durham since the mid 1990s but it isn’t a robust population.

“It is an important bit of research, with our findings we can counter misinformation and plan and target practical conservation work.”

Around 60 people have signed up to take part but Dr Kent hopes to recruit a team of 100 volunteers to ensure a good spread of research sites from the Tyne to the Tees.

Volunteers need to be available on the mornings of both Saturday, April 27 and Sunday, April 28 and training will be provided.

Recruits are particularly needed to cover the east coast around Seaham and Peterlee, Teesdale’s uplands and south west Durham including the Spennymoor and Newton Aycliffe areas.

For details email vkent@durhamwt.co.uk, call 0191-5843112 or visit the website durhamwt.c