LUCKY photographer Bryan Harper managed to snap a pair of otters playing in a river near Stroud as the new year started.

Bryan spotted the pair early in the morning in the River Frome in Ebley on New Year's Day, and quickly took their photographs as they frolicked in the water.

According to Gloucestershire Wildlife Trust the otter, or Lutra Lutra to give its Latin name, was nearly wiped out during the 20th century through a combination of pesticide poisoning, persecution and habitat destruction.

The wildlife charity credits the increase in otter population to the cleaning up of our rivers and waterways, the banning of harmful pesticides and hunting, and numerous conservation projects across the country to provide suitable habitat for them.

Councillor Simon Pickering, chair of Stroud District Council’s environment committee said that their presence was a sign of 'a healthy river system': "Seeing wild otters is always an exciting experience, even 30 years ago they were the were still largely absent from the Stroud Valleys as a result of Organochlorine pesticide use in the 1950s  and 1960s.

"They have slowly recovered and although rarely seen, their footprints and sweet smelling droppings (spraints) are a fairly common sight if you know where to look.

"Their presence, and the occasional sighting of cubs, is a good indication of a healthy river system with plenty of wild fish." 

More information can be found about the work being done to protect the wild otter population on the Gloucestershire Wildlife Trust website.