A THREE-year project to help North-East otter populations has been hailed a success.

The Otter Project, run by Durham Biodiversity Partnership, supported by Durham Wildlife Trust and funded by SITA Trust, has worked in Gateshead, South Tyneside, Sunderland and Darlington and is approaching its final weeks

It has carried out habitat restoration work, including building more than 40 otter holts and creating wetland habitats such as ponds and reed beds.

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The project has also carried out work at bridges where otters are at risk from traffic, to make the sites safer.

Durham Wildlife Trust’s Otter Project Officer Vivien Kent said otter populations had been growing steadily and slowly after years of decline.

“However, there was an urgent need for action to improve watercourses and increase the provision of natural resting areas and safe refuges for otters to allow them to re-colonise the urban rivers and tributaries of the Durham Biodiversity Partnership area.

“The project has been extremely successful and by the end of March will have installed more than 40 artificial otter holts and nine mammal ledges, created more than half a hectare of reed bed, restored or improved nearly one kilometre of wetland ditches and created four new off-stream pools.

Surveys have confirmed that otters are on the Tyne, Tees, Wear and their tributaries.

The trust is seeking volunteers to look for signs of otters in April.

To get involved contact vkent@durhamwt.co.uk