Otter spotted climbing 15ft tree at WWT Slimbridge

21st January 13

An otter has been spotted in Gloucestershire …up a tree.

Mo, a member of an otter family in Slimbridge, is gaining height with increasingly daring climbs up a 15ft (4.6m) Spindle tree…

Article published by the BBC. Click here to read more.

Otters are fascinating creatures known for their playful behaviour and aquatic prowess, often seen frolicking in rivers, lakes, and coastal areas. But have you ever wondered if these agile animals can extend their dexterity to climbing fences? The answer is both intriguing and revealing about the otters’ adaptability.

Otters belong to the Mustelidae family, which also includes weasels, badgers, and wolverines. While they are primarily aquatic, some otter species exhibit remarkable climbing abilities. For instance, the North American river otter, known scientifically as Lontra canadensis, has been observed climbing trees in search of food or to escape predators. This arboreal behaviour demonstrates their strong, flexible bodies and sharp claws, which are perfectly suited for gripping and manoeuvring through branches.

How Do Otters Climb Fences?

Otters’ climbing capabilities are not limited to trees. Their natural curiosity and problem-solving skills often lead them to explore various terrains, including vertical surfaces like fences. When confronted with a barrier, otters utilise their agility and determination to find a way around or over it. Fences, especially those that are not particularly high or have gaps that provide footholds, can be scaled by an otter with relative ease. Their dexterous paws and strong limbs enable them to grip and pull themselves up, much like they do with trees.

In the wild, otters are adept at navigating complex environments, including rocky outcrops and dense vegetation. This adaptability is a testament to their evolutionary success and explains why they can sometimes be seen climbing structures in human-dominated landscapes. Whether it’s a fence, a wall, or even a dock, if an otter sees something of interest on the other side, it might attempt to climb.

The Need for Otter-Friendly Habitats

The ability of otters to climb fences has practical implications, particularly for those trying to manage otter populations in certain areas. For example, fish farmers and pond owners often face challenges in keeping otters away from their stocks. Understanding that otters can climb fences suggests that simply erecting a barrier might not be sufficient. To effectively deter otters, fences may need to be higher and constructed with materials that are difficult for otters to grip or scale. Electrified fences, though controversial, are sometimes employed as a deterrent, emphasising the need for effective and humane wildlife management strategies.

Moreover, this climbing behaviour underscores the importance of designing otter-friendly habitats that accommodate their natural behaviours while protecting human interests. Conservation efforts benefit from acknowledging the full range of otter abilities, including their climbing prowess. By doing so, we can create environments where otters can thrive without coming into conflict with human activities.

In summary, otters can climb fences, leveraging their natural agility and problem-solving skills. While surprising to some, this behaviour is consistent with their known ability to navigate various obstacles in their environment. Whether it’s scaling a tree or a fence, otters continue to amaze us with their versatility and intelligence. Understanding these behaviours not only enriches our appreciation of these remarkable animals but also informs more effective and humane wildlife management practices.