European otters declined dramatically from the 1950s, disappearing from many rivers. We report here on longterm monitoring (from 1977) in 3 catchments in western Britain that were recolonized naturally and in 2 catchments in eastern England that were reinforced by captive-bred otters. A minimum of 16-years data was collected on each river until 2002. At a series of sites in each study river, the percentages which were positive for otters and the number of spraints per sprainting site were recorded and combined to produce an annual index of population. One western river, naturally recolonized, showed rapid early population growth for 5 years, followed by slower growth, while growth was steadier in 2 catchments which already held some otters at the beginning of the study. Colonization on the eastern rivers was slower, with greater fluctuations over time. Annual population growth rates were estimated at 1–7%, higher in the earlier years. A strategy for annual monitoring of otters is recommended.
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Vol. 33 • No. 3