THESE incredible pictures taken by a Dorset Echo Camera Club member prove that otters are returning to the River Stour.

Although it was believed that they were locally extinct until a few years ago, otters are beginning to breed here once again after reductions in river pollution.

Tony Gaffney from Blandford St Mary, the man behind A and C Photography, managed to snap this furry family while on a walk just five minutes from his Beckett Close home.

He said: "When they first returned back here, they were scared off by fishermen throwing bricks at them.

"Photographers would also come down in their masses and you'd often see up to 50 of them around, which didn't help things.

"But now they're back again and it's great to see. I take these photos to keep people updated and I'm glad they've become very popular with people.

"I'm not going to try and make money out of it, though, because it's never been about that. I'm just happy to receive compliments on Facebook."

Otters almost disappeared from England in the 1970s after pesticides routinely used brought their numbers to near extinction levels.

Now many of those chemicals have been banned and the creatures are present once again in rivers across England. Despite taking a little longer to return in the south, they can now be seen in every county.

Otter numbers in watercourses in the south-west and along the River Wye are at maximum capacity.

Now, their numbers are being limited not by pollution but their own territorial behaviour.

Originally published in the Dorset Echo

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